Public Overwhelmingly Favors "Saving Private Ryan" for Best Picture Oscar

by Frank Newport

"Shakespeare in Love" far behind in second place


The American public overwhelmingly would like to see Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" win the Oscar this Sunday night as the best picture of the year in the annual Academy Awards ceremonies. When given a choice among the five movies nominated for Best Picture in a Gallup Poll conducted last weekend, "Saving Private Ryan" wins with 53% of the public's vote, followed in a distant second and third place by "Shakespeare in Love," with 11%, and "Life is Beautiful," with 8%. The other two nominated pictures, "The Thin Red Line" and "Elizabeth," get only 7% and 4%, respectively.

One might be excused for thinking there would be significant gender or generational differences in preference for the pictures nominated this year. "Saving Private Ryan" is a war picture from World War II, which would seem to have a special appeal to men and older Americans. Women, in particular, might be expected to disproportionately prefer either "Elizabeth" or "Shakespeare in Love."

None of these predictions bear out. The poll data show that the preference for "Saving Private Ryan" is almost as strong among women as among men, and on a relative basis is no stronger among Americans aged 65 and older who lived through WW II than it is among younger Americans. Women have only slightly higher preferences for "Shakespeare" and "Elizabeth" than men do.

How closely do the preferences of the average American predict the votes of Academy members? Last year, in 1998, the public was right on. Almost six out of ten of those interviewed in a Gallup Poll in March of 1998 selected "Titanic," which went on to sweep not only the Best Picture Oscar, but a large number of additional statues as well. Similarly, the public in a pre-Oscar poll overwhelmingly preferred Best Picture winner Forrest Gump as the 1994 winner.

In 1993, however, preferences for the eventual winner, "Schindler's List," were more muted. The Spielberg picture received 34% of preferences, only slightly more than did "The Fugitive," which received 26%. And, the public missed the Best Picture winner altogether for the year of 1992. That year, 34% of Americans wanted to see "A Few Good Men" win, and only 16% chose Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," which went on to become Best Picture.

For results based on the sample of national adults (N=1,025) the margin of error is ±3 percentage points. The poll was conducted March 12-14, 1999.

Which one of the five movies nominated this year for best movie would you like to see win the Oscar award for Best Picture of the Year -- READ AND ROTATE 1-5:?

8 Life Is Beautiful
4 Elizabeth
53 Saving Private Ryan
11 Shakespeare in Love
7 The Thin Red Line
13 No opinion
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