Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert may be tapping into the politics of fear, but in a hypothetical 2012 presidential matchup, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart outpaces his protégé Colbert by a wide margin among registered voters, 42 percent to 22 percent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
With one in three still up for grabs (mainly undecided), both Comedy Central funnymen may have a great chance to pick up support at their dueling rallies on the National Mall. Stewart plans a "Rally to Restore Sanity," while Colbert is countering with a "March to Keep Fear Alive."
As in most matters, partisanship shapes views on the subject: Stewart holds a commanding 53 percent to 19 percent lead among Democrats, and he bests Colbert 40 percent to 21 percent among independents. Colbert runs about evenly with his former boss among Republicans, despite his grilling of former president George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Dinner four years ago.
Despite strong anti-incumbent sentiment across the electorate, Stewart, who became host of "The Daily Show" in 1999, bests Colbert among all age groups, across those with college degrees and without and among both whites and African Americans. Stewart holds double-digit leads in all four main regions, including Colbert's native South, where the split is Stewart 38, Colbert 23.
Seniors -- who are largely unfamiliar with the two talk-show hosts -- represent a potentially deep pool of voters for both sides. They break 28 percent to 13 percent in favor of Stewart, but two in 10 hold no opinion and one in three say they support neither candidate. Adults under 30 overwhelmingly go for Stewart, 63 percent to 24 percent.
Stewart's base also includes liberal Democrats (65 percent for Stewart to 16 for Colbert), those living on the East Coast (51 to 18 percent), and those who say the country is headed in the right direction (53 to 23 percent).
The four in 10 voters who support the tea party divide evenly, 32 percent for Stewart, 29 percent for Colbert. Voters who oppose the tea party break 3 to 1 for Stewart.
Colbert, who left "The Daily Show" in 2005 to host his own, eponymous show, holds a narrow 26 to 21 percent lead among conservative Republicans who voted for McCain in 2008 and who say they'll vote for a Republican candidate in their district in 2010.
Despite being the new kid on the block, this would not be Colbert's first experience with presidential politics: The talk-show host turned candidate announced a presidential bid in the fall of 2007 and campaigned as a native son of South Carolina, ultimately dropping his bid after the state's Democratic Party denied him a place on the primary ballot.