August 24, 2006

Katie Couric: Perky and Cute, But Smart, Informed and Liberal, Too

All Three Commercial Evening News Anchors Viewed Positively

Summary of Findings

Though Katie Couric has yet to take her seat as the new CBS Evening News anchor, the former Today show co-host is already a more familiar personality than her NBC and ABC counterparts. Asked to give their general impressions of each of the three TV journalists in a single word, 66% could offer up an opinion of Couric, compared with fewer than half who could offer a response for Brian Williams or for Charles Gibson.

By wide margins, most Americans who know them have positive things to say about each of the new evening news anchors — good is by far the most mentioned word for all three. However, the more specific words used to describe Katie Couric have a decidedly different tone. Perky, cute, nice, energetic, bubbly, and fluffy were among the most frequently offered impressions of Couric, but they were offered along with knowledgeable, informed, smart and fair.

Specific accolades for the other two commercial broadcast news anchors were less about personality and style and more focused on their job performance. NBC’s Brian Williams was often summed up in a word as fair, and also as informative, knowledgeable and professional. Trustworthy was frequently offered as positive descriptor of ABC’s Charles Gibson along with informed, professional and competent.

While Katie Couric is more widely known, she also receives more negatively-toned responses than do Williams or Gibson. These include some who describe Couric as liberal or biased, and others who say she is bad, annoying, overrated or that they just don’t like her.

Women, who are more avid viewers of the morning news, offer a one-word impression of Katie Couric more often than men, and when they do it is overwhelmingly positive. Nearly half of female respondents (47%) offered words that had a favorable tone to them, compared with just 31% of men. There are not significant gender gaps in either familiarity with or the balance of impressions when it comes to Williams and Gibson.

Conservative Republicans were significantly more likely to offer a negative assessment of the former Today Show host. In fact, just as many conservative Republicans offered a negative description of Couric as a positive one, most frequently the impression that Couric is liberal and biased. Democrats and independents, by comparison, had far more positive than negative things to say about her, and moderate and liberal Republicans were particularly favorable, with a 55% majority offering positive impressions. There are no overall differences along partisan or ideological lines when it comes to the words used to describe Brian Williams and Charles Gibson.