Guess Who’s Got Higher Favorable Ratings Than Biden and Trump?

This weekend in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel—who has hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, and a late-night show on ABC for the past 21 years—stepped forward as the MC of a big-ticket fundraiser for the re-election of Joe Biden, which also featured former President Obama.

Earlier this spring another leading player in late night, CBS’s Stephen Colbert, did the exact same thing in New York, hosting a money-raising event for the Biden campaign, which also featured Obama, as well as Bill Clinton.

Was that too much open partisanship for a late-night TV star to display? 

Of course those in the opposite camp, supporters of Donald Trump, think so: A report on Fox News assailed Colbert’s participation as taking “Democratic party shilling to [a] new level.”

No question that Fox News should know shilling when they see it. Shilling is to Fox as jumping is to a kangaroo: instinctual and habitual. Sean Hannity surely owns every TV host shilling-for-pols world record.

Of course, his argument is that he is hired to work on the “opinion” side of Fox News, as opposed to the “news” side. Whereas Colbert and Kimmel are hired to be on what side? The entertainment side? The funny side? And so not supposed to actually take a side?

If anything, the reaction to this open proselytizing for Biden and Democratic policies by late-night hosts should be along the lines of “what else is new?” Kimmel, Colbert, Jon Stewart, Seth Meyers, John Oliver et al. have been mostly unflinching in their regular assaults on Trump and his MAGA-lamania.

On June 14, Kimmel celebrated Trump’s 78th birthday by speed-reading 78 names Jimmy Kimmel Live! has called the 45th President of the United States. A small sampling:

Dopey McGropey

Don Whorleone



Donald Duck-the-Draft.

Some noticeable side-taking there. Yes, the late-night hosts do skewer Biden on occasion, too (not much Trump-skewering takes place on Fox), mostly for being a creature from the Paleozoic era. But, since at least 2016, they have not been hiding their political preferences.

Surprisingly, this has not been overwhelmingly obvious to the American public, at least according to a new survey conducted by the internet-based research firm YouGov.

Yes, late night certainly leans Democratic: 38 percent of late-night viewers in the poll identified as Democrats, while 22 percent said they are Republicans and 21 percent are independents. Again, perhaps to be expected given the main target of the jokes, half of Republicans said political humor was excessive on the shows and 57 percent said shows were too liberal.

To which the only response would be: only 57 percent of Republicans call late night too liberal? I mean, two of the big-name hosts have literally raised money for Biden. Yes, the shows are largely liberal—and clearly not hiding that.

That has not made the hosts unpopular. According to the same survey, Kimmel had a favorability score of 59 percent against just 18 percent unfavorable. This, for a guy Trump screeches about—in ALL CAPS—on social media as an utter failure.

Stewart, another consistent Trump non-fav in ALL-CAPS, was up 51-25 favorable to unfavorable. Colbert was 49-25.

Biden would shoot someone on Fifth Avenue for those favorable numbers. (Wait, it’s the other guy who is into Fifth Avenue gunplay.)

Jimmy Fallon, who is perceived (correctly) as less political and openly partisan than his colleagues, got a booming favorability score of 63 percent. The only late-night host who scored in the Biden range was HBO’s Bill Maher, with 36 percent favorable to 37 unfavorable.

What does all of this mean? 

Mainly it seems to mean that the people who watch late night are accustomed to political commentary as a staple of the humor delivered by these hosts, and are largely unbothered by it. They may say there is too much politics in the monologues but, if asked, people would likely say there is too much politics in everything in American life.

Johnny Carson, who is the model for just about everything in late night, was famously equal opportunity in carving up whoever was in office doing whatever merited his mockery. But that was a different era, when politics truly had a recurring theme of “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.”

The ferocity of political warfare now, with Supreme Court scandals, felony convictions, mass shootings, promises of retribution, and insurrectionists storming the Capitol, seems to be compelling late-night hosts (and those who write their jokes) to move away from whataboutism and toward what-the-heck-ism.

As in: What the heck is going on in this country?

It feels distressingly new and threatening, but it’s not hard to imagine a late-night host in 1860, firing off jokes on the telegraph, making some fun of that Lincoln guy for his scarecrow physique and stovepipe hat. But mostly going after the lunacy and ugliness of owning other human beings. 

Funny people have always tended to punch up, not down. Even jesters made (careful) fun of the king and his court. Nothing got more laughs than the emperor without any clothes.

The You Gov survey didn’t get into all those specifics. But there was one other favorable takeaway for late night: Slightly more than a quarter of Americans said they still watch late-night shows.  

Donald Trump is apparently one of them.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *