PALM BEACH, Fla. – A new Harris Interactive poll ranks top-rated radio host Rush Limbaugh as the worst news personality in America, with Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and CNN’s Nancy Grace on his heels.
Sean Hannity, Katie Couric and Piers Morgan were next in line among the least favorites, with Barbara Walters, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and Wolf Blitzer rounding out the top 10.
The Harris poll is somewhat at odds with a Wenzel poll last summer in which 56 percent said Limbaugh is doing an excellent, good or fair job, while only 28 percent said his performance was poor. Fifteen percent had no opinion. More than 51 percent said his work is very helpful or somewhat helpful to the nation, while 34 percent said he was very harmful or somewhat harmful. Again, 15 percent held no opinion.
“Even among the very liberal, 42 percent said he was helpful to America,” said Fritz Wenzel, president of Wenzel Strategies at the time. “There is a significant gender gap for Limbaugh, as 59 percent of all men considered him helpful to America, just 43 percent of women agreed. That said, more women than not agreed that Limbaugh is helpful to America – just 38 percent of women said he was harmful, while 19 percent were not sure.”
Ironically, although Limbaugh tops the worst list in the new Harris poll, he also ranks at No. 9 on the survey’s list of favorite news personalities.
Topping the favorite list is ABC’s Diane Sawyer, CNN’s Anderson Cooper NBC’s Brian Williams. The Wenzel poll last summer found that Americans believed Williams was America’s most influential anchor.
Rounding out the top 10 on the favorite side of the Harris survey are O’Reilly, Walters, George Stephanopoulos, Matt Lauer, Couric, Limbaugh and Hannity.
“Sometimes a news personality is supposed to just provide the news such as the anchors of the three network newscasts and some of the cable shows,” Harris says.
“Other times, controversy or political leanings drive a current affairs personality and that might actually be the purpose of his or her news program. People choose their newscaster for certain reasons. One person may watch Brian Williams, for example, because they always watched NBC news and it’s a habit for them. Another may watch Bill O’Reilly because they believe in what he believes in politically. Each of these personalities has a core audience. But each also have those who would never watch them – and most are just fine with that.”
Harris also says much has been made about how certain cable channels and their personalities lean politically.
“Depending on one’s own political inclinations certain personalities are more or less liked,” Harris says. “For Republicans, the top three favorite current affairs personalities are Bill O’Reilly (29 percent), Sean Hannity (25 percent) and Rush Limbaugh (22 percent), while for Democrats and Independents the top three are Diane Sawyer (28 percent and 25 percent, respectively), Anderson Cooper (24 percent and 21 percent) and Brian Williams (24 percent and 20 percent).
“Interestingly, one person is in the least liked top three for all three political parties. For Republicans, the three least liked current affairs personalities are Nancy Grace (25 percent), Rush Limbaugh (24 percent) and Chris Matthews (18 percent). For Democrats, the three news personalities that are the least favorite are Rush Limbaugh (66 percent), Bill O’Reilly (45 percent), and Sean Hannity (23 percent) while for Independents it is Rush Limbaugh (49 percent), Bill O’Reilly (31 percent) and Nancy Grace (25 percent).”
The Harris poll was conducted online within the U.S. between Jan. 16 and Jan. 23, 2012, among 2,016 adults.