Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Viewers Prefer Dead Guy to Modern News Anchors

If you need any further evidence as to the dire state of the network evening newscasts, consider the fact the recently deceased Walter Cronkite is viewed more favorably by Americans than any of the current talking heads at CBS, NBC, and ABC.
All the Walter wannabes have a ways to go to match the dean of television newscasters who died last Friday. Americans like longtime CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite much more than the current crew of network anchors, perhaps because they see him as less ideologically liberal.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 78% of Americans have at least a somewhat favorable view of Cronkite, including 52% whose opinion of him is very favorable.

Only 12% have an unfavorable opinion of Cronkite, who stepped down as CBS-TV’s nightly anchorman in 1982.

By comparison, Katie Couric, who now anchors the CBS Nightly News, is viewed unfavorably by more that three times as many adults (38%). Forty-nine percent (49%) have a favorable opinion of Couric.

NBC’s nightly anchorman Brian Williams has 47% with a favorable opinion and 28% unfavorable.

For ABC anchorman Charles Gibson, favorables total 50% and unfavorables total 28%.
Could be a few reasons for this. First, Americans have far more viewing options and the percentage of the population watching any of the evening newscasts is far less than in Cronkite's days. It also stands to reason many of those who were loyal Cronkite viewers have passed on already considering his last CBS broadcast was 28 years ago.

Then there's ideology. While in his years since retirement Cronkite was unabashedly to the left, history portrays him as being non-partisan, although many would argue with that. The current anchors, on the other hand, well, it's not a stretch to call all three liberals, although a couple are better at hiding it (hint: it's the men).
In terms of ideology, only 20% of adults say Cronkite was a liberal, while nearly twice as many (39%) believe that of Couric. Just 25% say Williams is liberal, and 26% believe that of Gibson.

Seventeen percent (17%) say Cronkite was conservative, and 37% view him as a moderate. Couric is seen as conservative by 10% of adults and moderate by 27%.

Williams is viewed as a conservative by only eight percent (8%) of Americans, while 33% regard him as a moderate. Thirteen percent (13%) say Gibson is conservative, but 29% think he is a moderate.
I'd like to know what color the sky is in the world of anyone who thinks Couric is a conservative. They're either to the left of Hugo Chavez or have never seen her on the air.
For all four newscasters, however, anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of adults are not sure where they stand ideologically, which is either good news for journalists who hope to be seen as ideologically neutral or suggests that a sizable number of adults are not watching them enough to form an opinion.
I'd lean toward the latter. Considering on a strong day the three combined total about 20 million viewers, it seems many Americans have no clue who these people are and still cling nostalgically to Cronkite.

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