Trevor Noah vs. Jon Stewart

A Diversity Check on The Daily Show, in Data

Written by Li Lai

Women made up 50.8% of the U.S. population in 2015. What share of the guest list did they make up on The Daily Show?

Share of Female Guests on The Daily Show, 2016 vs 2014

In 2016, ratings were slightly higher for episodes featuring men.

Male guests averaged 819,000 U.S. viewers per episode while female guests averaged 797,000.

However, Barack Obama’s outsized ratings skew the above spread. Without his December 12, 2016 appearance, the disparity shrinks by 27% to just 16,000 more viewers for episodes featuring male guests.

Trevor Noah (2016)

The majority of guests on The Daily Show in 2016 were entertainers, such as musicians and actors, making up 46% of females (24 guests) and 50% of males (62 guests).

Number of Guests on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in 2016, by Profession

John Stewart (2014)

The Top 3 professions on The Daily Show in 2014 matched those in 2016, with entertainers making up the majority at 42%, or 67 guests.

However, the hosts differ in their Top 4 and 5 positions — Trevor Noah invited activists and entrepreneurs, while Jon Stewart opted for a more scholarly bent with academics and filmmakers.

Number of Guests on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2014, by Profession

Jon Stewart had over four times as many European guests in 2014 than Trevor Noah did in 2016 (14 vs 3).

A glance at their (South and East) Asian guests reinforces this proclivity: 7 of 7 guests of Trevor Noah were born in North America or had immigrated under the age of 3. Meanwhile, only 4 of 11 Asian guests of Jon Stewart in 2014 were American-born.

The below chart examines the ethnic ratios of Trevor Noah and Jon Stewart’s guests and compares them with the national distribution in 2015.

Positive numbers mean this group was over-represented on The Daily Show. Negative numbers mean they were under-represented.

Disparity between Ethnic Distributions of Guests on The Daily Show and the U.S. Population in 2015
Ethnic Distributions of Guests on The Daily Show, 2016 vs 2014

3.4% of adults self-identified as LGBTQ in 2012, so the 4% share on The Daily Show in 2016 is roughly in line with the U.S. population.

On Representation

Women and Hispanics are both seriously under-represented on The Daily Show, by 21% and 15%, respectively.

Trevor Noah’s share of black guests in 2016 outpaced the national share of the population by over 21%, while Jon Stewart’s share of white guests in 2014 outpaced the national share by over 22%.

On Interests

Trevor Noah’s guest list in 2016 skewed towards entertainers and activists representing or speaking about black culture and other American issues. Contributing factors were likely the Black Lives Matter movement and the sensational 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart’s guest list in 2014 skewed international and academic, with over four times as many Europeans as Trevor Noah had in 2016. Contributing factors were likely the conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East. That being said, Black Lives Matter began in 2012 and exploded in 2014 with the Ferguson riots, so Jon Stewart’s vast majority of white guests with foreign-leaning interests cannot simply be attributed to cultural climate.

One thing is painfully clear from this study:

Representation matters.

Jon Stewart’s guests look like him. And Trevor Noah’s guests look like him. Meanwhile, women and Hispanics look like neither and so they get shortchanged on The Daily Show.

Look, Mediaversity does not believe that every program should be a microcosm of America. In fact, media carries more truth when it reflects its creators. Our goal is to highlight dearths in representation across the landscape.

Trevor Noah and Jon Stewart have both done an exceptional job bringing important issues to light, but they will not be the spokespeople for women or Hispanics. Nor should they be.

But someone should, because women make up more than half of Americans, and Hispanics, nearly a fifth. These groups deserve representation.

If you think all humans deserve visibility, please share our findings and follow us for future studies.

In the meantime, watch intelligently.

(And we’ll be here for pointers.)