No joke: Stephen Colbert ahead of Gary Johnson in national poll

If Stephen Colbert were to run as an independent against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, more people would vote for him than for than Gary Johnson.

Who says? An actual poll conducted by Public Policy Polling that was released on Wednesday.

According to a survey of 700 American voters conducted between Jan. 13 and Jan. 16, 13 percent would vote for the Comedy Central "Colbert Report" host in a general election against Obama and Romney. In that theoretical contest, Obama would get 41 percent of the vote, Romney 38 percent. Seven percent of those polled were undecided.

If the candidates for President this year were Democrat Barack Obama, Republican Mitt Romney, and independent Stephen Colbert, who would you vote for?

Barack Obama: 41%
Mitt Romney: 38%
Stephen Colbert: 13%
Undecided: 7%

Just 7 percent of those polled would vote for Johnson, if the former New Mexico governor ran as an independent against Obama and Romney.

If the candidates for president this year were Democrat Barack Obama, Republican Mitt Romney, and Libertarian Gary Johnson, who would you vote for?

Barack Obama: 47%
Mitt Romney: 40%
GaryJohnson: 7%
Undecided: 6%

"Stephen Colbert is far better known around the country than Gary Johnson," Tom Jensen, PP's director, told Yahoo News.

Among Republicans, 13 percent of those polled said they'd back Colbert over Romney in a general election against Obama. (Six percent of Republicans said they'd vote for Obama over Romney.) Interestingly, 15 percent of voters who identified themselves as "very conservative" said they'd vote for Colbert over Romney in a general election. Seven percent of those voters said they'd favor Obama over Romney.

And if the notion of a faux talk-show host running as a third-party candidate is ludicrous, you might be in the minority.

"If there were ever an election cycle when a television character would not be considered a joke, it would be this one," Jensen said. "Americans are disgusted with the candidates on both sides, and fed up with politics. I actually think if Stephen Colbert were to run as an independent, and keep talking about the issues he's been talking about the last week or so for the next 10 months, he'd probably do pretty well in a general election. Certainly not well enough to win, but well enough to justify his third-party candidacy."

The poll showed that Colbert would actually hurt Obama more than Romney, shrinking the president's current five-point lead over Romney to within the poll's 3.7 percent margin of error.

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