A new survey by Magid Associates, a leading media industry consulting firm, shows that “70% of viewers think [Lester] Holt will be as good or better than [Brian] Williams while filling in. Just 6% think he will be worse.”
“Lester is good. He’s familiar to viewers. NBC is in the driver’s seat right now,” Jaime Spencer, senior vice president of Magid Associates, tells Breitbart News.
The online survey of 1,004 respondents, titled “Brian Williams and Jon Stewart: The Impact of Talent on the News Landscape,” was conducted on February 13. “Survey findings presented at the 95% confidence level with a margin of error of 3.1%,” according to the 15-page overview provided to Breitbart News by Magid Associates.
CNN, the first media outlet to obtain a copy of the overview, failed to report the survey’s findings about Holt’s high level of credibility.
It did, however, report on aspects of the survey that presented Brian Williams in a fairly positive light, under the headline, “Some viewers think Brian Williams deserves a shot at redemption.” Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources writes:
Many viewers believe Brian Williams deserves a second chance on the “NBC Nightly News” …
Almost half — 48% — said they thought Williams can restore his credibility, 30% said Williams cannot regain credibility, and 22% said they were unsure.
Among daily viewers of nightly newscasts, there was more support for Williams — 58% of daily viewers said they thought he could earn his credibility back.
But the question posed by the survey wasn’t whether Williams “deserved a shot at redemption,” and “a second chance on the ‘NBC Nightly News'” or even a chance at anchoring on another network. Instead, it was:
Do you think Brian Williams can regain his credibility as a journalist and news anchor?
In its reporting, CNN conflated the survey respondents’ opinions on Williams’s capability of restoring his credibility with an unasked question–whether they believe NBC Nightly News should give Williams a second chance.
The survey also found that 42% of respondents believed Williams’s “recounting of his experience covering the Iraq War” was intentionally misleading:
Which of the following best describes your opinion of Brian William’s [sic] recounting of his experience covering the Iraq War?
Intentional — 42%
Honest Mistake — 28%
Not sure — 22%
In addition, the survey found that “[m]ore than 80% of viewers have a positive or unchanged perception of NBC News’ brand in wake of the [Brian Williams] suspension. Nearly 30% feel better based on its actions.”
Thinking about the 6-month suspension, which of the following statements best describes your feelings about NBC News’ decision?
Just right: 40%
Too Strong: 30%
Too Weak: 9%
Presumably 21% of respondents had no opinion or were unsure.
CNN accurately described this part of the survey, reporting that “Williams has been hurt individually much more than NBC has been hurt institutionally.”
CNN Worldwide’s president Jeff Zucker was president of NBC’s Television Group at the time Williams was named NBC Nightly News anchor in 2004. Zucker became CEO of NBC Universal in 2007, but left in 2011. He became head of CNN in 2013.
Last week, Zucker told the Huffington Post he would “love to have [Jon Stewart] at CNN.”
I’m a huge admirer of what Jon Stewart does. . .We’d love to have him at CNN. I don’t think it’s in the cards, so I hope you won’t mischaracterize that. But if you’re asking me, would there ever be room for it? Yes, the answer is yes. Do I think it’s likely to happen? I don’t really think so, but we’d love to have that conversation.”
Unlike political polling companies when they make their polling results available to the public, Magid Associates did not provide detailed cross-tabs or the entire list of the specific questions asked in the survey. Some, but not all, of the questions asked in the survey were described in the overview provided to Breitbart News and CNN by Magid Associates.
Magid’s Spencer told Breitbart News the survey was paid for Magid Associates, not by one of its many clients in the media industry. CNN reported that “NBC News is not currently a client of Magid, but the consulting firm does work with other divisions of NBCUniversal.”
“We have done work historically for CNN as we have for virtually every media company. But they are not currently a client,” Spencer told Breitbart News.
The lack of detail on the description of the survey’s methodology in the overview made available to Breitbart News raised questions about the reliability of the survey’s conclusions. The overview stated:
§ All respondents who commented on Brian Williams and NBC News had to have watched a network evening news program in the past 30 days.
§ All respondents who commented on Jon Stewart and The Daily Show had to have watched the show in the past 30 days.
Magid’s Spencer elaborated on the survey’s methodology in an email responding to a Breitbart News request for clarification:
Total sample was 1,004. About 900 of them answered the Williams questions and about 400 answered the Stewart questions. A respondent could answer both if they watched both. The Stewart Nightly News question was asked of the Williams sample, so about 900.
Other than that clarification, “[w]e are not releasing anything publicly beyond what you see in the document,” Spencer told Breitbart News.
The survey’s finding that “26% of NBC Nightly News viewers would like to see [Jon Stewart] host the program,” therefore, refers to the answers of 900 survey respondents who watched at least one nightly network evening news broadcast (not necessarily NBC Nightly News) in the last 30 days.
With a smaller sample size, the margin of error is higher.
Similarly, the survey’s findings that “16% think Williams should be fired by NBC News as a result of his actions” comes from the smaller sample size of 900.
In addition, the overview did not provide the survey question that corresponded to that result, nor the responses selected by the other 84% of respondents to the question.
The survey’s finding that “56% of viewers find Stewart very credible” was the response of those 400 who watched Stewart on the Daily Show at least once in the past 30 days. With this even smaller sample size, the margin of error is significantly greater.