Pew: Limbaugh and Hannity Fans Politically Smarter Than Colbert's, CNN's and Stewart's

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey to see what the audiences of the various political shows knew about politics, and what they found goes against the conventional wisdom about whose audience is better informed about current events. With a simple three-question survey about politicians in high office, it turned out that the audiences of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity answered more questions correctly than fans of the "Colbert Report," "The Daily Show," and CNN.

The quiz asked the names of two of the world's leaders and one party in power to determine what audience is most well informed. Survey participants were asked the names of the Secretary of State, the British Prime Minister, and the name of the party currently controlling the House of Representatives.

According to the report on, the audiences of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have more college graduates than that of Hannity and Colmes, yet the Hannity audience answered more of the questions correctly than did that of Colbert and Stewart. Apparently the audiences of conservative shows are more politically informed than those of liberal shows.

The questions concerning US politics fared better than the question of who is Prime Minister of England, though. Only the readers of The New Yorker/Atlantic (59%) and listeners of NPR (57%) knew at above 50% that Gordon Brown is the current PM of Britain. All the other respondents were under 49%.

But, where it concerns US politics, more respondents from the Rush Limbaugh and Hannity & Colmes shows knew that Condi Rice was the current Sec. of State and that the Democrats currently controlled the House of Reps, beating the audiences of Colbert, Stewart, the NewsHour, C-SPAN, Letterman and Leno, CNN and the Nat'l Enquirer. Even O'Reilly's audience didn't fare as well as Limbaugh's and Hannity & Colmes.'

  • The New Yorker/Atlantic: 71 percent (correctly identified Democrats as the majority in the House), 71 percent (correctly identified Condoleezza Rice), 59 percent (correctly identified Gordon Brown)
  • NPR: 73 percent, 72 percent, 57percent
  • Hannity & Colmes: 84 percent, 73 percent, 49 percent
  • Rush Limbaugh: 83 percent, 71 percent, 41 percent
  • Colbert Report: 73 percent, 65 percent, 49 percent
  • Daily Show: 65 percent, 48 percent, 36 percent
  • NewsHour: 66 percent, 52 percent, 47 percent
  • O'Reilly Factor: 70 percent, 60 percent, 41 percent
  • C-SPAN: 63 percent, 59 percent, 35 percent
  • Letterman/Leno: 51 percent, 42 percent, 31 percent
  • CNN: 59 percent, 48 percent, 29 percent
  • National Enquirer: 44 percent, 32 percent, 22 percent

It might be a little much to expect too many Americans to know the name of the British Prime Minister, though. He has only been there a short time, and he's done little to distinguish himself on the international stage, nor anything to endear himself to Americans (not that this is his job, granted).

The "education factor" was interesting, though.

In general, well-educated news audiences scored high on political knowledge. For instance, 54 percent of the regular readers of publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper's Magazine are college graduates, as are 54 percent of regular NPR listeners.

However, several news audiences with relatively low proportions of college graduates also scored well on the news quiz. Just 31 percent of regular "Hannity & Colmes" viewers are college graduates. Even still, 42 percent Hannity viewers got perfect scores on the political knowledge quiz, compared with 44 percent of NPR listeners.

Nearly 40 percent of the regular audience of the news parody "The Colbert Report" are college graduates, compared with 30 percent of "The Daily Show" viewers. Both shows have younger audiences than other TV news sources, with less than a quarter of Colbert and Daily Show viewers over the age of 50, compared with more than half of "Hardball" and "Hannity & Colmes" viewers being 50 and older.

Sadly, the numbers over all were lower than they should have been. It shows a general ignorance of politics that should make us all worry. Remember, these people are voting and don't know what party controls the House of Reps!

Media Bias Debate CNN O'Reilly Factor Hannity & Colmes Daily Show Colbert Report News Hour New York Magazine Atlantic Stephen Colbert