I have spent just over 17 years in polling at Public Opinion Strategies. That had occurred to me, certainly, but not in the same way until Jon Stewart voiced the same timeline in his announcement this week that he would be leaving “The Daily Show.” Seventeen years. As they say, the days are long, but the years are short.
Much is being written and will be written about Jon Stewart. References to a Time survey in which respondents named him the most credible anchor in news are found in several articles already. Unfortunately, that survey was more of an on-line popularity contest, akin to what one sees in local newspapers purporting to measure public opinion.
Here’s what we do know from our valid surveys – Jon Stewart did in fact blur the line between entertainment and news more than even the programming gurus on 24-hour cable networks have done. Jon Stewart just did it with that knowing wink in his eye.
In a national survey of voters last month, we asked them to tell us from which television show or network they receive most of their “information about current and political events.” While certainly traditional news outlets dominate still, one-in-20 point to Jon Stewart as their main news source. (Notably, one-quarter say they receive their news from something other than TV.)
That five percent may not seem like much, but it equates to over 11 million Americans of voting age. Moreover, one can see that those saying Stewart is their latter day Cronkite are far more likely to be in the increasingly important Millennial sub-group, as well as male and center-left on the political spectrum.
Jon Stewart’s reach has been broader than this of course. We’ve seen on more than one occasion where a Daily Show segment is cited as information in a focus group on a particular topic. And, certainly there are many more who simply enjoy the program for its wit and entertainment value, without considering it to be their main source of news. There will be big shoes to fill for the next host.
But, now, for your Moment of Zen