Limbaugh Well-Liked by Many, but Not All, Republicans

by Frank Newport

Strong majority of Democrats have negative opinions of the conservative talk-show host

PRINCETON, NJ -- Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh is viewed favorably by 60% of Republicans nationwide, while 23% have an unfavorable opinion of him. In sharp contrast, only 6% of Democrats view Limbaugh favorably, while 63% view him unfavorably.

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Limbaugh has been much in the news recently as media outlets have played up his highly vocal opposition to President Obama in general and to Obama's economic stimulus plan in particular. The president himself was provoked enough by Limbaugh to bring up his name in his public comments about the stimulus plan, saying, "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." Since then, Limbaugh's role in influencing Republican positions on public policy issues, including in particular the stimulus package, has been a topic of discussion.

Given the deliberately partisan and ideological nature of Limbaugh's radio program, the sharp divide in views of the talk-show host by partisanship are not surprising. Still, the data from Gallup's Jan. 30-Feb. 1 poll show that Republican support for Limbaugh is not monolithic. Although a clear majority of 60% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Limbaugh, a not-insignificant 23% have an unfavorable opinion. Seventeen percent of Republicans say they have no opinion of Limbaugh either way (either because they haven't heard of him or don't know enough about him to say).

Almost a third of Democrats say they have no opinion of Limbaugh, but negative views of him among Democrats outweigh positive opinions by more than a 10-to-1 ratio. Among independents, negatives outweigh positives by a 45% to 25% margin.

Gallup asked a similar question about Limbaugh in a slightly different context six years ago, with generally similar results.

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Implications

Limbaugh is a radio personality whose continuing viability depends on maintaining high levels of listenership, which in turn depend at least in part on his ability to generate "buzz" and controversy. So it is no surprise that Limbaugh has taken on President Obama in a provocative manner. It's a little more surprising, perhaps, that Obama acknowledged Limbaugh in his public remarks, thus elevating the opinions of the talk-show host to national news status.

The data from the recent Gallup Poll confirm what has been found previously and what follows from common sense, given the target audience for Limbaugh's radio show. He enjoys a positive image among the majority of Republicans (although about one in four Republicans view him negatively), while having a much more negative image among independents and particularly among Democrats.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,027 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 289 Republicans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 346 independents, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 376 Democrats, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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