Rush Limbaugh Succeeded in Defining John McCain’s Credentials, New National Annenberg Election Survey Finds

    After Rush Limbaugh began strongly attacking Arizona Sen. John McCain’s conservative credentials, people who listened to the talk show host were more likely than the non-listening population — including those who describe themselves as conservatives — to believe that Sen. McCain was a moderate.
     
    The findings, released today, are based on an across-time analysis of 639 Limbaugh listeners and 8,077 non-listeners surveyed by the National Annenberg Election Survey. (For a description of the survey, see Appendix).
     
    Consistent with Limbaugh’s message during the period from the New Hampshire primary to Super Tuesday, his listenership increasingly came to share the view that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was less conservative and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney more so than Limbaugh listeners previously had thought.
     
    The conservative talk show host, whose audience is estimated to exceed 13.5 million people, opposed Sen. McCain’s 2000 presidential bid and escalated his attacks on the Republican contender in the days before and immediately after McCain’s victory in the New Hampshire primary on January 8.
     
    “The influence of conservative talk radio in general and Rush Limbaugh in particular has been called into question by political commentators of both the left and right,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES).