Many Americans can’t recognize anchor Brian Williams

Pew Research Center

Only 27 percent of people surveyed by Pew researchers correctly identified Brian Williams when shown a picture of the NBC anchor, Pew reports. Older Americans were far more likely to recognize Williams than people under 30: 34 percent of those over 65 knew who he was, while only 15 percent of those under 30 did.

By comparison, when Times Mirror/Gallup asked the same question in 1985 about Dan Rather, 47 percent of people overall recognized the CBS anchor, who like Williams was the top news anchor in the country at the time of the survey. In 1985, 41 percent of those under 30 knew who Rather was by his photo.

Williams is the guy on the left. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)


Pew says the data “reflects a large decline in the audience for nightly network news since the 1980s.”

For example, in November 1985 an average of 48 million Americans watched one of the network newscasts each evening. By 2013, that number had fallen to 24.5 million, according to Pew Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Some interesting data in the topline: 2 percent of those surveyed identified Williams as Vice President Joe Biden. One percent thought he was former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and 53 percent had no answer.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Williams as a CBS anchor.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Super Genius

    Based on the picture, Dan Rather doesn’t look to be doing so well.

  • wolfie773

    He should change his name to something more memorable, like Brian Smith

  • Fran Farmington

    You have to admit that he looks alot different without his mustache and soul patch.

  • Superpower

    Similarly, Americans can’t tell the difference between news, and opinion masquerading as news.

  • JimTreacher

    The correction is DELICIOUS.

  • JTFloore

    it is funny. however, the mistake obviously was not made by all of poynter. it appears it probably was made by a lone copy editor who initially changed NBC to CBS. maybe his/her brain failed to function for a moment. and maybe the copy editor is very young and doesn’t watch tv much — if at all — as is the case with many youngsters, in which case it would be an easy mistake to make.

  • skippy

    i relish the irony of poynter mis-identifying the news anchor that most americans couldn’t identify.

  • SFMH57

    The next generation is coming! I and many others probably know his DAUGHTER from “Girls” but could not exactly place him unless he was on the set and in a suit. Even then, a cross-section of the generations would probably guess “Guy Smiley.”

  • Misty Bell Mathews

    I think Brian Williams is an NBC anchor.