Elisabeck Hasselbeck (L) and Joy Behar of "The View"

Elisabeck Hasselbeck (L) and Joy Behar of “The View”

*The March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter details an internal study commissioned by producers of “The View” that showed co-hosts Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck – on the political left and right, respectively – were too “polarizing” for audiences.

“They’re out of sync with the audience,” notes one source.

The study, conducted earlier this TV season, showed many viewers are turned off by the political debates that have defined the morning talk show, including Hasselbeck’s former dust-ups with ex co-host Rosie O’Donnell; the co-hosts’ tough interview with then-GOP presidential challenger John McCain; and the feud between Donald Trump and co-hosts Behar and Whoopi Goldberg.

It’s unclear when Behar and Hasselbeck were made aware of the research, but on March 7, Behar, 70, announced that she will exit “The View” after 16-plus years at the end of her contract this summer. And though co-executive producer and co-host Barbara Walters on March 11 denied that Hasselbeck, 35, will follow Behar out the door (“There are no plans for Elisabeth to leave this show,” said Walters), observers reading between the lines contend her words were not unequivocal and that Hasselbeck indeed is plotting an exit.

In fact, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that ABC-Disney executives would like to find another conservative for the show as well as a woman who appeals to the burgeoning Hispanic demographic. Branding expert Linda Ong, founder and president of Truth Co., who has consulted with Univision and Disney on cultural analysis, notes that bicultural Latinos appeal across demographics, not only to the sliver of the Hispanic audience that watches daytime TV.

“Latinos are at the forefront of leadership and pop culture today,” says Ong. “The things they are doing are interesting to all of us.”

There also is awareness among executives at “The View” that any transition must be handled respectfully to avoid damaging the franchise. “They don’t want an Ann Curry moment,” says an industry source.

To be sure, “The View” still is among the top-rated daytime talkers, averaging 3.3 million viewers season-to-date, behind leader “Dr. Phil” (4 million viewers) and “Live! With Kelly and Michael” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (each pulling in 3.4 million viewers).

But “The View” this season has declined 11 percent in total viewers and 19 percent among the key women 25-to-54 demographic (down to a 1.3 rating average), upon which much of daytime television is sold.