Survey Finds Colbert, Stewart Among TV’s Most Trusted Personalities

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might host comedy shows, but according to a new poll, they’re about as trusted as serious news anchors.

The Hollywood Reporter and decision intelligence firm Morning Consult asked 2,239 adults in the U.S. how much they trusted various TV hosts. While the survey’s focus was mostly on news anchors, three politically-inclined late-night hosts were also included in the survey—and performed favorably.

The survey was conducted over two days in early May, well into Jon Stewart’s run as Monday-night host of The Daily Show.

Asked “How much do you trust [insert anchor name here]?,” respondents had a choice of 5 answers: “A lot,” “Some,” “Not much,” “Not at all,” or “Don’t know / No opinion.”

Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert fared about the same: 57% of those surveyed said they had either “a lot” or “some” trust in both hosts. (Stewart edged out Colbert in the “a lot” column by one percentage point [25% vs. 24%], while Colbert led in “some” [33% vs. Stewart’s 32%]).

Seth Meyers, meanwhile, was trusted to some degree by 49% of polltakers (19% “a lot,” 30% “some”). While that’s 8 percentage points behind Stewart and Colbert, it’s still higher than the trust scores of some actual news anchors. Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Megyn Kelly, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity all scored lower than Meyers.

Stewart and Colbert also performed better than Rachel Maddow, Gayle King, and Norah O’Donnell. 

In fact, each of the three late-night hosts included in the poll stand in the middle of the pack among TV news’ biggest names. They weren’t too far behind the poll’s best performers: Lester Holt, David Muir, Al Roker, Robin Roberts, Michael Strahan, and Anderson Cooper all landed in the 60-65% range of respondents having “a lot” or “some” trust in them. (Lester Holt’s 65% made him the poll’s big winner.)

Stephen Colbert inspired the most negativity among the late-night hosts. Of the two negative-leaning answers in the survey (“not much” and “not at all”), Colbert scored 29% — slightly higher than Stewart’s 24% and Meyers’ 27%.

The survey also broke down responses by gender and generational cohorts. Across the board, more males than females felt “a lot” of trust in the late-night hosts.

As for the generational divide, Stewart was the most trusted late-night host among both Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Baby Boomers (1946-1964). Colbert won the Gen X (1965-1980) demographic, while Meyers led Gen Z (1997-2012).

Perhaps the biggest sign of a shift in the media landscape? In almost all cases, Gen Z put a significantly lower amount of trust in each of the three late nighters than any other generational cohort.

While Stewart, Colbert, and Meyers are generally not held to the same standards by viewers as serious news anchors, each does wield some degree of power in the upcoming election. Beyond covering political news extensively in their monologues each night, they also occasionally land facetime with the candidates themselves. Late Night with Seth Meyers welcomed President Biden onto the show in February, and Colbert interviewed Presidents Biden, Obama, and Clinton at a Democratic fundraiser in March.

The complete results of the survey have been made available by THR and Morning Consult here.

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