Johnny Carson reigns as America's all-time favorite late-night host, poll finds

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Twenty-three years after retiring from The Tonight Show -- and a decade since his death -- Johnny Carson remains the most popular late-night TV host, and it's not even close, according to results of a scientific poll released Tuesday.

Carson, who hosted the NBC show from 1962-1992, was identified by 25 percent of Americans who were asked the open-ended question: "Who is your favorite late-night television talk show host of all time?"

The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 2,105 Americans by telephone.

Coming in second was David Letterman, who earned 13 percent of the votes, though the recently retired host was beat by "none," which scored 14 percent of the vote.

The Quinnipiac poll broke down the results into four different age groups, and Carson was such a dominant choice among older Americans it more than made up for the fact that only 1 percent of people ages 18-29 called him their favorite host.

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Johnny Carson reigns as America's all-time favorite late-night host, poll finds
Johnny Carson in his first and only talk show appearance since stepping down as host of "The Tonight Show," gets a standing ovation by Letterman and the studio audience when he makes a surprise appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman in May, 13 1994 on the CBS Television Network. This photo is provided by CBS from the Late Show with David Letterman photo archive. Photo: Tony Esparza/CBS ©1994 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved
Johnny Carson, comedian and host of the "Tonight Show," is shown in 1962 at an unknown location. (AP Photo)
December 1964: Johnny Carson, star of NBC's 'Tonight' show, one of the channel's flagship, colour programmes. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
Comedian Steve Martin left, festooned with mock jewelry and other ornaments, entertains Tonight show host Johnny Carson during a taping of the show at NBC studios in Burbank Calif., July 19, 1980. Martin, a surprise guest on the show, playfully answered the question, "Has success spoiled Steve Martin?" by showing up in chains, rings and earrings, and throwing fistfulls of "money" at Carson, who was making his first Tonight Show appearance since he underwent surgery on his leg last week. ( AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
American talk show host and comedian Johnny Carson (1925 - 2005) and his second wife Joanne Copeland, mid 1960s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
December 1964: Johnny Carson, star of NBC's 'Tonight' show, one of the channel's flagship, colour programmes. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
Brazilian soccer star Pele appears on the ?Tonight Show? with Johnny Carson (NBC-TV) on May 7, 1973 in New York. (AP Photo/Allen Green)
Host Johnny Carson is shown at the 52nd Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles Monday, April 14, 1980. (AP Photo)
Talk show host Johnny Carson is seen dressed as an Egyptian King in this undated photo. Carson died Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005 according to his nephew. He was 79. (AP Photo)
Singer Paul McCartney gestures as he chats with Johnny Carson during the taping of the "Tonight Show," at the NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., Oct. 24, 1984. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Johnny Carson, host of the "Tonight Show," sits in his front office under a wall covered with framed magazine covers bearing his picture in Los Angeles, Ca., Sept. 29, 1983. Carson will celebrate his 21st anniversary on the late-night talk show. (AP Photo/Doug Pizac)
Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, left, admires a pair of sunglasses worn by talk show host Johnny Carson during taping of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Wednesday night, Dec. 17, 1986, Burbank, Calif. McMahon was in California to have surgery, and gave Carson the sunglasses. McMahon was wearing a brace on his right shoulder to keep his shoulder immobile. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Talk show host Johnny Carson, with his personalized coffee cup in front of him, watches clips from earlier shows during the last taping of the "Tonight Show" in front of family and friends in Burbank, Ca., Friday, May 22, 1992. The king of late-night comedy is retiring after 30 years. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
In this May 22, 1992 file photo, Ed McMahon, left, and host Johnny Carson are shown on "The Tonight Show" for their final broadcast in Burbank, Calif. With his debut as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" 50 years ago this October, until he retired from the show on May 22, 1992, he was seen by more people on more occasions than anyone else in American history. "Johnny Carson: King of Late Night," a two-hour "American Masters" portrait premiers Monday at 9 p.m. EDT on PBS. (AP Photo/Douglas Pizac, file)
Johnny Carson arrives at NBC Studios for the second-to-last taping of the "Tonight Show" in Burbank, Ca., Thursday, May 21, 1992. Carson will retire tomorrow after 30 years of late-night television. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
In this May 22, 1992 file photo, host Johnny Carson wipes his eye after watching a series of clips from earlier shows during the last taping for their final broadcast of "The Tonight Show" in Burbank, Calif. With his debut as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" 50 years ago this October, until he retired from the show on May 22, 1992, he was seen by more people on more occasions than anyone else in American history. "Johnny Carson: King of Late Night," a two-hour "American Masters" portrait premiers Monday at 9 p.m. EDT on PBS. (AP Photo/Douglas Pizac, file)
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In third place overall was Tonight Show host Jay Leno with 7 percent and he was followed by his successor, Jimmy Fallon, with 6 percent. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien of TBS each got 3 percent of the votes while Comedy Central's Jon Stewart got 2 percent.

Even Bill O'Reilly cracked the Top 16 list that Quinnipiac released Tuesday, though he's not technically a late-night talk-show host (his Fox News Channel show airs at 5 p.m. on the west coast).

Quinnipiac also asked respondents to name their favorite host currently on TV, and Fallon won with 20 percent of the vote compared to 11 percent for second-place Kimmel.

Third in the "currently on TV" category was O'Brien (6 percent) followed by Stewart (2 percent). Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert -; who gets Letterman's old show in September -; was next with 1 percent.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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