The Gist: In 2016, 32% of American adults listened to NPR on the radio, while this year, the number of listeners rests at 27%. That’s a decrease of 5 percentage points, and an overall decrease of ~18%. However, this may not be a bad trend for the company so long as these lapsed listeners have switched to NPR’s new digital offerings, which new reports show to be faring well. 

Let me preface the following data by saying that I am a pretty huge fan of NPR, for whatever that’s worth. I think it represents some of the best of journalistic integrity, and many of its hosts are able to report on today’s top trends in a manner of storytelling that is just beautiful. 

And with that, here’s some data:

CivicScience data show that NPR listeners have declined from 2016 to 2017.

In 2016, 32% of American adults listened to NPR on the radio, while this year, the number rests at 27%. 

Parts of this seem to echo recent reports from NPR on its national ratings:

“According to Nielsen Audio ratings, the total weekly listeners for all programming on NPR stations reached an all-time high of about 37.4 million in the fall of 2016 – a nearly 4 million person increase from the same period in 2015. Listeners for NPR programming and NPR Newscasts account for about 30 million of that total.”

When we break down the data even further, we find that those who listen to NPR radio “Very closely” have declined from 8% to 7% from 2016 and 2017, and those who listen “Occasionally” dropped from 18% to 16%.

However, there’s an important caveat. In the above question, we ask everyday Americans about NPR radio broadcasts. For this, the numbers seem clear. That said, NPR has recently expanded into many other domains, including podcasts, apps and digital media, which all seem to be faring well.  

So, is it necessarily a bad thing that NPR radio is losing listeners? Not necessarily, so long as those lapsed listeners have continued to follow NPR throughout other mediums.

Further research will delve deeper into this – so stay tuned.

As a last note, NPR has been particularly acclaimed for its coverage of LGBTQ issues, and in fact, NPR Host Scott Simon recently received the Randy Shilts Award for LGBTQ coverage, granted by the National Association of LGBTQ journalists. If you would like to check out our latest research on LGBTQ Americans, you can find the report, here.