PPP: Public Split On Whether Williams Should Return To NBC

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Feb 27, 2015 7:30 PM
PPP: Public Split On Whether Williams Should Return To NBC

The controversy surrounding Brian Williams and his non-“RPG hit my helicopter” story might not have impacted NBC’s favorability numbers with the public, but it has hurt Williams personally. In a D+6 poll by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP), 31 percent of viewers have a positive opinion of him, 39 percent have a negative one. Moreover, there’s a split between whether he should be allowed to return to the anchor’s desk, or if he should be shown the exit–immediately; 39 percent think he should be reinstated, while 36 percent say fire him.

The poll also noted two other things. If the interim anchor of Nightly News, Lester Holt, replaces Brian Williams, likability won’t be much of a factor since both Williams and Holt have the same favorability numbers. At the same time, Holt doesn’t have nearly as many haters as Williams:

Voters are evenly divided, with 40% saying they trust NBC News and 40% saying they don't. Those numbers are virtually identical to what we found on the 2014 iteration of this poll, when 39% said they trusted NBC and 39% said they didn't.

Even though the controversy hasn't affected perceptions of NBC much overall, it's definitely impacted feelings about Williams. 31% of voters have a positive opinion of him to 39% with a negative one. There's close division about whether he should be able to return- 39% say yes while 36% think he should be fired. There are big partisan divides in attitudes towards Williams. Among Democrats 52% think he should be allowed to come back to just 24% who believe he should be fired. But among Republicans only 32% support his return with 45% saying he should be let go.

If NBC does decide to replace Brian Williams with Lester Holt they won't see much of a drop off in popularity. Holt's favorability rating of 30% falls just below Williams' 31%, but he doesn't have near the quantity of voters who dislike him with only 15% giving him a negative rating to Williams' 39%.

The rest of the poll was grounded in partisan trust of media outlets. Shocker; more Republicans hate MSNBC than do Democrats who actually like the network. Democrats are also more likely to trust ABC, NBC, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, and NBC News. Less than 25 percent of Republicans can’t say the same, though they’re split 37/39 regarding trust and distrust of PBS.