The political leanings of late night's big three

Paul HiebertData Journalist
September 30, 2016, 6:08 PM GMT+0

Data from YouGov Profiles confirms that while all three late-night talk show audiences skew liberal, both Fallon and Kimmel appeal most to moderates

Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, has been in the news lately for his handling of Donald Trump's recent appearance on the program. Liberals accused Fallon of going soft on Trump by not asking the presidential candidate any questions of substance. Conservatives, on the other hand, pointed out that Fallon is an entertainer who makes jokes for a living, as opposed to a journalist whose job is to hold public figures accountable.

New data from YouGov Profiles reveals why some viewers of late-night talk shows might be more upset about Trump's Tonight Show appearance than others. Looking at broadcast's big three — The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC), The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), and Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC) — numbers suggest that 30% of Tonight Show viewers who've either watched live or via streaming in the past year identify as liberal. While the same is true for 29% of Kimmel's audience, Colbert's viewership has the highest percentage of liberals with a rate of 52%.

At 36% and 38%, respectively, moderates make up the bulk of Fallon's and Kimmel's viewership. Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel Live! attracts an audience with the highest proportion of conservatives — though, just like the other two late-night programs, it still appeals to more liberals.

Analysis of each audience by demographics finds that The Tonight Show's viewership contains the greatest percentage of both females (57%) and 18-49 year olds (55%). Colbert's fans are most likely to have earned either a 4-year (24%) or post-grad (13%) degree. As for Kimmel, his audience has the highest percentage of black viewers (20%) compared to Fallon (14%) and Colbert (12%).