Fans of Jon Stewart who were sad to see him leave The Daily Show just before the craziness of the 2016 presidential election will likely be even more upset when they learn the results of a new study on the effect he had on the election.
A new study paired ratings from Comedy Central with political surveys to determine that Stewart’s decision to leave the show had a demonstrable effect on the previous presidential election, helping Donald Trump to scrape out a razor-thin victory. As Big Think reported, researches found that Stewart’s departure had a 1.1 percent effect on voter turnout. Given that Trump’s margin of victory was fewer than 80,000 votes in a handful of swing states, that could have been a real effect on the election.
Researchers Ethan Portera and Thomas J. Wood found that Americans with lower political engagement tend to consume news from comedy sources like The Daily Show, and fewer Americans may have been motivated to vote Democratic with Stewart replacement Trevor Noah putting up lighter ratings. While Stewart would likely not be converting any Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton, he may have been able to convince some Democrats to vote when they may have just stayed home instead.
“‘The Daily Show’s’ ratings decline was negatively associated with voter turnout — suggesting that Stewart’s role in the election is understood in relationship to mobilization, rather than persuasion,” researchers noted.
Stephen Colbert also left his own show around the same time for a new venture with CBS, but the study found that this had a weaker effect on voter turnout than Stewart’s departure.
While Jon Stewart was gone from The Daily Show during Donald Trump’s rise to political relevance, the comedian was not absent from the scene entirely. He still made comments about the election, including speaking out in the final week before Election Day to mock Trump’s claim that the election was “rigged” against him.
“Dude, you live in a tower with your name on it in gold. How well would you be doing if the man wasn’t keeping you down?,” Stewart said, via Business Insider.
When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show in 2015, he moved to New Jersey, grew a beard, and may have accidentally helped elect Donald Trump to office https://t.co/UnqVWZQ8oO
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) May 1, 2019
There were some who questioned the idea of whether Jon Stewart may have played that big a role in the 2016 presidential election, or at least if he could have in any way tipped it to Donald Trump. But if it is true, then fans of The Daily Show may try to recruit Stewart for a return in 2020.