updated 6/13/2005 7:25:21 PM ET 2005-06-13T23:25:21

About 40 percent of Americans say they consider talk show host Bill O’Reilly a journalist — more than would define famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward the same way, according to a poll conducted this spring.

O’Reilly is on the Fox News Channel, offering his often tart conservative opinions, while Woodward has spent a career writing news stories and books.

Only 30 percent of those polled said Woodward was a journalist, while 53 percent said they didn’t know, despite the fact that Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story that ultimately led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

More than a quarter said talk show host Rush Limbaugh was one, while one in five said they considered newspaper columnist George Will to be a journalist.

Poll respondents were asked about 10 writers, TV news anchors and broadcast personalities. They were simply asked, “Please tell me if you think (the individual named) is a journalist or not?” The question made no specific reference to differences between reporters and commentators.

Limbaugh said Monday he was “not really surprised” by the results showing 27 percent of Americans would describe him as a journalist.

“I am America’s anchorman, doing news play-by-play 15 hours a week for nearly 17 years now, and this is just more evidence that the old media’s monopoly-like dominance is finished,” the conservative talk show host said.

The Annenberg poll was conducted from March 7 to May 2, before extensive publicity about Mark Felt, the former FBI official who was revealed late last month to be Woodward’s Watergate source known as “Deep Throat.”

A matter of definition?
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said the poll results suggest the public defines the word “journalist” far differently from how those in the press define it.

Annenberg also polled journalists from all sectors of the industry. Only 3 percent of journalists said Limbaugh was “somewhat close” to being a journalist and 11 percent said that about O’Reilly, while 93 percent said Woodward was “somewhat close or very close” to being a journalist.

The poll of 1,500 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly higher for the poll of 673 journalists.

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