August 6, 2015

As Jon Stewart steps down, 5 facts about The Daily Show

Jon Stewart is stepping down as host of The Daily Show after 16 years, handing the job over to 31-year-old South African comic Trevor Noah. During that time, the show has served not only as a source of media criticism, but also as a source of news in its own right.

As Stewart’s tenure comes to an end, here are some key facts about how his program has made its imprint on journalism.

1While it’s nowhere near the top, 12% of online Americans cited The Daily Show as a place they got their news. This audience share was on par with that of USA Today (12%) and The Huffington Post (13%) among 36 different news outlets Pew Research Center asked about in a 2014 survey. Roughly equal shares of online Americans trust (16%) and distrust (18%) The Daily Show as a source of government and political news, but there is a strong ideological split in who trusts the show: Almost half (45%) of consistent liberals say they trust The Daily Show, while less than 1% of consistent conservatives say the same.

2Median Age of The Daily Show ViewersThe Daily Show attracts a much younger news consumer than cable and network news shows. The median age of Web-using adults who got news from The Daily Show was 36 years last year, similar to that of its then-companion show, The Colbert Report (33 years). This is much younger than for other television news shows, both on cable and broadcast networks, including the network evening news programs and cable news shows like O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper 360 and the Rachel Maddow Show.

3Almost Half of Consistent Liberals Trust The Daily ShowLiberals, men and college grads are more likely than conservatives, women and those without a college degree to get political and government news from The Daily Show. About a third (34%) of those with consistently liberal political views watch The Daily Show, compared with a mere 1% of those with consistently conservative political values. There is also a small gap between men and women: 15% of men get news about government and politics from The Daily Show, compared with 9% of women. And 16% of college grads report watching the Daily Show in the past week, higher than both those with some college (12%) and those with a high school degree or less (7%). 

4Entertainment the Most-Cited Reason Daily Show Viewers WatchViewers tend to turn to The Daily Show primarily for entertainment, rather than in-depth reporting or the latest headlines. Many prominent public figures have been guests on the show, ranging from Academy Award winners, musicians and authors to Supreme Court justices, U.S. presidents, vice presidents and first ladies. Still, the most commonly cited reason viewers watch The Daily Show is for its entertainment value. A 2010 Pew Research Center study on Americans’ news media habits found that 43% of regular Daily Show viewers said they mainly turn to the show for entertainment, compared with 24% who said they watch for views and opinions, 10% for the latest headlines and just 2% for in-depth reporting (20% gave some mix or all of the reasons).      

5The Daily Show has a smaller digital audience than do most major news outlets, but its visitors stick around. In the first half of 2015, The Daily Show’s online audience ranged from 2.7 million to 4.4 million unique visitors per month, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform data between January and June of 2015 (U.S. audience only). While The Daily Show’s traffic numbers may not place the program’s traffic among that of news leaders on the Web like CNN or The Huffington Post, visitors to The Daily Show’s digital properties spend more time there, perhaps a reflection of the popularity of the site’s online video offerings. (Their website contains videos from the past 16 years of the show, as well as full episodes from the past several weeks, all viewable for free and able to be embedded on other websites.) During the first half of 2015, the average minutes per visit for The Daily Show was at its lowest in January, at 12.5. But even that amount was considerably higher than for 50 of the most visited online news entities, whose average minutes per visit ranged from 1.4 to 5.1 in the same month. (Note: The comScore data used here does not necessarily include all viewing content outside the branded properties, such as that on Hulu or YouTube, for all of the entities referenced.)

Note: This post was originally published on Feb. 11, 2015, and was updated on Aug. 6.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Digital Media, Generations and Age, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Media Trends, Political Polarization, Television

  1. Photo of Jeffrey Gottfried

    is a senior researcher focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Katerina Eva Matsa

    is a senior researcher focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.

  3. Photo of Michael Barthel

    is a research associate focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.

5 Comments

  1. Kipu’see1 year ago

    Please keep our hearts and minds in touch with reality by at least tweeting your story @jonstewart #jonstewart

  2. Thegoodeg Eg2 years ago

    You are incorrect when you say he “pioneered news through comedy.”
    First, there was no pioneering involved. If you go back to the likes of Mort Sahl, for example, there was plenty of it. More sophisticated and less distorted.
    What Stewart does–and he wouldn’t disagree–is COMEDY through NEWS.
    He is a self-described stand-up comedian.
    It is to the detriment of the country that too many lazy citizens took his antics for real news.

  3. Mary Jean Hrbacek2 years ago

    Am I the only one who watched “That Was the Week That Was?” I was young, but it was a great show.

    The Smothers Brothers ruffled a few fathers too, although their show was a variety show. And there was Laugh In – RMN’s famous “Sock it to me?”

  4. Chas2 years ago

    News with comedy was pioneered by Will Rodgers, and Rush Limbaugh

    1. Jeff2 years ago

      Seriously? Rush Limbaugh? The scion of fact falsification? Having watched his show in the early 80’s (Ditto that Rush),it was clear he had no intention of level presentation. And funny it was not. John Stewart used a comedic slant to present to us the ironic and hypocritical world of our government.