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
December 1964: Johnny Carson, star of NBC's 'Tonight' show, one of the channel's flagship, colour programmes. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
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)
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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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