Audience Characteristics

The Surprising Side Of The Public Radio Audience

At dinner parties and in conversations with public radio listeners, I am often asked what “surprises me” about what we know of the NPR station audience.  Having worked here for a number of years now, it’s a hard question to answer – truly little shocks me anymore!

One thing that does comes to mind is the diversity of the NPR audience in their outlook and life circumstances – something that’s unavoidable with a weekly audience of 27 million Americans, but isn’t always fully appreciated when making generalizations. 

A few interesting points from Mediamark Research underscore this reality (and give you some interesting fodder for your next cocktail conversation):

  • About 20% of listeners at least occasionally speak a language other than English in the home.

  • 51% of NPR station listeners have shopped at Walmart in the past 3 months, and 49% have shopped at Target.  In comparison, 25% have shopped at Bloomingdale’s and 3% at Neiman Marcus.

  • 21% of NPR listeners read the New York Times either in print or on the web.  79% do not.

  • About one in four listeners has visited Starbucks in the past six months.  In contrast, 50% have patronized McDonald’s.

  • The political outlook of the NPR News audience is relatively balanced, with nearly equal percentages identifying as middle of the road (25%), conservative (28%), and liberal (37%).

  • 58% of NPR listeners believe that holding to religious faith and belief is “very important”

  • 35% of NPR listeners believe that following traditional gender roles for men and women is “very important”


Vincent Lampone is Research Manager for Corporate Sponsorship and Development in NPR's Audience Insight & Research group.

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