NPR logo The Surprising Side Of The Public Radio Audience

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.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.

About