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Americans Rate Television News and Talk Personalities

Americans Rate Television News and Talk Personalities

ABC's Diane Sawyer tops the list

by Frank Newport and Joseph Carroll

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The assumption that on-air personalities are valuable components of television news and talk programming is beyond dispute. The latest validation of this old principle comes from CBS News' signing of former NBC Today show anchor Katie Couric to be the new anchor of the CBS Evening News, at an estimated contract value of at least $39 million over the next three years.

Despite these types of astronomical salary figures, it is sometimes difficult to disentangle the impact of a single personality on a show's ratings. Some news and talk programming such as the morning news shows rely on an ensemble cast, and it can be the chemistry of the grouping that matters to viewers as much as the appeal of any one personality. Additionally, there is the impact of the environment in which a show is broadcast, including in particular the ratings of the programs that lead into and out of the show.

One broad gauge of a personality's value can be a simple measure of how much average Americans like or dislike the individual. This is not a perfect measure, given that Americans sometimes like to watch an individual on television whom they profess to dislike. Still, such a measure provides a crude gauge of the relative likeability of television personalities.

A recent Gallup Panel poll asked a random sample of Americans to indicate if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of 17 personalities who regularly appear on news and talk shows on broadcast television and cable news networks.

Here are the basic results:

Opinion of Television Personalities
July 24-27, 2006


Favorable

Unfavorable

Never heard of

No opinion

%

%

%

%

Diane Sawyer

80

11

2

6

Dan Rather

70

26

1

3

Barbara Walters

66

28

1

5

Regis Philbin

65

22

4

9

Katie Couric

60

23

8

9

Matt Lauer

59

14

18

9

Larry King

57

30

2

10

Charles Gibson

55

8

27

10

Bob Schieffer

50

9

29

12

Brian Williams

47

7

38

8

Bill O'Reilly

45

35

12

9

Anderson Cooper

43

9

39

9

Lou Dobbs

39

11

36

13

Meredith Vieira

38

9

44

9

Geraldo Rivera

33

56

3

8

Rosie O'Donnell

32

60

1

6

Star Jones Reynolds

19

45

24

13

The net favorable measure of each personality represents the percentage with a favorable rating minus the percentage with an unfavorable rating. ABC's Diane Sawyer has the highest overall net favorable rating of those tested in the poll, with a net of +69 (80% favorable, 11% unfavorable). Following Sawyer are Charles Gibson (+47), Matt Lauer (+45), Dan Rather (+44), Regis Philbin (+43), Bob Schieffer (41%), and Brian Williams (+40).

Next, ranking closer to the middle of the group, are Barbara Walters (+38), Couric (+37), Anderson Cooper (+34), Meredith Vieira (+29), Lou Dobbs (+28), and Larry King (+27). Bill O'Reilly has a net positive favorable rating of +10.

Three personalities have net negative ratings -- Geraldo Rivera (-23), Star Jones Reynolds (-26), and Rosie O'Donnell (-28).

There are significant differences in the percentage of Americans who have an opinion of each of these individuals. Some, like Sawyer or Rather, are very well known, and are rated either favorably or unfavorably by more than 90% of those interviewed. Others, like Dobbs or Vieira, are much less well known, and are rated by roughly half of those interviewed.

These levels of recognition affect the overall favorable ratings. While the percentage of the overall population that has a favorable opinion of a personality is important, as it measures their existing strength of appeal, there is also value in looking at the percentage of those who are able to give opinions of personalities. In other words, how well is the personality rated among those who are familiar with him or her? This measure in some ways represents the potential impact of a personality, under the assumption that if the personality is very well liked by those who know him or her, they will have a more positive impact if or when they become better known.

This table displays the re-calculated favorable and unfavorable ratings, looking only at the responses of those who have an opinion of each television personality.

Opinion of Television Personalities
Among Those With Opinions of Each Person

July 24-27, 2006

Favorable

Unfavorable

%

%

Diane Sawyer

88

12

Charles Gibson

87

13

Brian Williams

87

13

Bob Schieffer

85

15

Anderson Cooper

83

17

Meredith Vieira

81

19

Matt Lauer

81

19

Lou Dobbs

78

22

Regis Philbin

75

25

Dan Rather

73

27

Katie Couric

72

28

Barbara Walters

70

30

Larry King

66

34

Bill O'Reilly

56

44

Geraldo Rivera

37

63

Rosie O'Donnell

35

65

Star Jones Reynolds

30

70

As the table illustrates, among those with an opinion of each personality, seven are rated favorably by at least 8 in 10 respondents: Sawyer, Gibson, Williams, Schieffer, Cooper, Vieira, and Lauer. Dobbs, Philbin, Rather, Couric, Walters, King, and O'Reilly are also rated more positively than negatively by people who are familiar with them. Three personalities -- Rivera, O'Donnell, and Jones Reynolds -- are rated more negatively than positively by the people who evaluate them.

Specific Television Dayparts

These data have significance for specific television programming dayparts:

  • Both Gibson (anchor of the ABC World News) and Williams (anchor of the NBC Nightly News) garner more positive ratings than Couric (the soon-to-be-anchor of CBS Evening News). Couric is better known than either Gibson or Williams, but has a higher percentage of negative responses, which brings down her overall favorable rating.
  • Schieffer also scores much higher than Couric, his replacement on the CBS Evening News.
  • Vieira, the soon-to-be-replacement for Couric on the Today show, is unknown to many Americans, so it is difficult to measure her potential once she is in place on a program of such high visibility. Still, those who do recognize her give her a very high net positive rating.
  • Vieira's competition, Sawyer of ABC's Good Morning America program, has as positive of ratings as any personality tested in the survey. Although that popularity has not translated into dominant ratings for her program so far, these data suggest that she remains a formidable competitor.
  • Jones Reynolds recently left the ABC program The View, and is to be replaced by O'Donnell. These data show that neither of these two personalities is very popular; both have significantly negative net ratings.

Partisan Views of TV Personalities

Republicans (including those independents who lean to the Republican Party) and Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) differ significantly in their views of many of these television personalities.

Overall, Sawyer is the most favorably viewed person among both party groups (based on the basic data among all Americans), though she ties with Rather among Democrats.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to rate Fox News personality O'Reilly more favorably (65% vs. 31%), while Rivera has a slightly -- but not statistically significant -- more positive rating among Republicans (37% vs. 31%). All other personalities are either rated equally by partisans of both parties, or more favorably among Democrats.

Democrats are more favorable than Republicans in their views of 11 personalities: Rather (86% vs. 48%); O'Donnell (44% vs. 15%); Couric (68% vs. 51%); Vieira (45% vs. 30%); Cooper (49% vs. 36%); Lauer (65% vs. 53%); Walters (71% vs. 59%); Sawyer (86% vs. 74%); Jones Reynolds (23% vs. 13%); King (62% vs. 53%); and Schieffer (54% vs. 47%). Views are most polarized in regards to Rather.

Opinion of Television Personalities
by Party Affiliation

July 24-27, 2006

Republicans
(including "leaners")

Democrats
(including "leaners")


Net Difference

%

%

Bill O'Reilly

65

31

34

Geraldo Rivera

37

31

6

Regis Philbin

66

65

1

Lou Dobbs

39

39

0

Charles Gibson

53

57

-4

Brian Williams

45

49

-4

Bob Schieffer

47

54

-7

Larry King

53

62

-9

Star Jones Reynolds

13

23

-10

Diane Sawyer

74

86

-12

Barbara Walters

59

71

-12

Matt Lauer

53

65

-12

Anderson Cooper

36

49

-13

Meredith Vieira

30

45

-15

Katie Couric

51

68

-17

Rosie O'Donnell

15

44

-29

Dan Rather

48

86

-38

There are essentially no partisan differences in views of Philbin, Dobbs, Gibson, and Williams.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 24-27, 2006. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/24031/Americans-Rate-Television-News-Talk-Personalities.aspx
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