Queen Elizabeth: 50 Years of Public Opinion

by Darren K. Carlson

No woman has appeared in the top 10 of Gallup's "most admired woman" list more often

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Feb. 6, 2002 marks the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in Great Britain (her coronation occurred over a year after her accession, in June 1953). A review of the American public's opinion of Queen Elizabeth reveals a figure that the American public views favorably, and who has long been the object of its admiration.

In a Gallup poll conducted after the 1997 death of Princess Diana, 47% of Americans said they had a favorable opinion of Queen Elizabeth. In December 1998, that percentage had increased significantly, to 68%. By way of comparison, Americans do not rate Prince Charles -- the queen's son and heir to the throne -- as favorably. In 1997, just 29% of Americans had a favorable view of the prince, although this percentage increased to 54% in 1998.

Nowhere does Queen Elizabeth's legacy with the American public stand out more than in Gallup's annual survey of the public's most admired man and woman for each year. Since 1948, no woman has placed in the top 10 more often than Queen Elizabeth has. As the table below shows, her 38 top 10 appearances significantly outnumber those of any other woman.

 

Number of Lists, 1948-2001, on Which Person Appeared Among Top 10

   

Queen Elizabeth II

38

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

27

Margaret Thatcher

23

Mamie Eisenhower

21

Margaret Chase Smith

19

Mother Teresa

18

Clare Boothe Luce

18

Helen Keller

17

Mm. Chiang Kai-shek

17

Nancy Reagan

17

Betty Ford

16

Eleanor Roosevelt

14

Patricia Nixon

14

Barbara Bush

14

Oprah Winfrey

14

Hillary Clinton

10

Lady Bird Johnson

10

Indira Gandhi

10



In fact, only one man has been on the list of most admired men more often than Queen Elizabeth has been on the women's list: the Rev. Billy Graham, whose 44 appearances in the top 10 of the "most admired man" list is the highest for either gender.

Historical Perspective on the Queen's Coronation

In 1953, Gallup asked the American public questions about Queen Elizabeth and her coronation. While the public generally described her positively, the coronation was not an event that drew a large amount of attention in the United States.

In response to the open-ended question, "What is your opinion of Queen Elizabeth?" 66% of Americans gave positive responses at that time. Specifically, 22% of Americans ascribed generally positive qualities to her (nice, earnest, honest). Another 15% said they had a good opinion of her but did not cite specific qualities. Additionally, 14% described her as capable (in reference to duties of being queen), 9% thought she was beautiful or lovely, 4% thought she had a queenly bearing (well-bred, genteel), and 2% described her as smart or intelligent.

While Americans thought of Elizabeth II in a generally positive manner, her actual coronation did not elicit much of their attention. When asked if they were interested in the coronation ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth, just 38% of Americans in 1953 said they were, while 61% said they were not.

Royal Family: Okay in England, but Not in the United States

Although Americans may consistently mention Queen Elizabeth among the women they admire most, there appear to be no signs that they would ever want a royal family in America. But, Americans appear to heartily endorse the idea of having a royal family in England. In a January 1950 poll, 49% of Americans thought the royal family was a good thing for the people of England, and 25% thought it was a bad thing. When that question was re-asked in 1999, an even larger percentage of Americans (64%) said the royal family was a good thing for the people of England, while 23% thought it was bad.

In 1950, just 3% of Americans said they thought it would be a good idea for the United States to have a royal family and 93% thought it was a bad idea. A re-asking of this question in 1999 found 11% of Americans saying a royal family would be a good thing for the United States and 87% saying it would be a bad thing.

British Continue to Support Monarchy, Although Many Would Prefer Some Modifications

A recent survey in the United Kingdom affirms that British public sentiment remains in favor of the monarchy, although with some modifications. About a third of United Kingdom residents interviewed by Gallup U.K. last fall said they prefer the monarchy just as it is, while a little more than half said the monarchy should continue to exist but that it should become "more democratic and approachable." Just 10% of the British public said the monarchy should be abolished.

PREFERENCES FOR THE FUTURE OF THE MONARCHY

Which of these statements comes closest to your view -- [ROTATED]: the Monarchy and the Royal Family should stay pretty much as they are now, (or) the Monarchy and the Royal Family should continue to exist but should become more "democratic and approachable" rather like the Monarchy and the Royal Family in the Netherlands, (or) the Monarchy should be abolished and replaced by a non-executive figurehead president like the ones they have in some continental countries?

 

Stay the same

Become more "democratic and approachable"

Should be abolished

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

         

2001 Sep

32

56

10

3

2000 Jun

27

60

11

3

1998 Nov

25

62

12

0

1997 Sep

15

72

11

2

1996 Nov

31

50

16

3

1996 Mar

28

51

17

4

1995 Nov

16

54

15

5

1995 Oct

32

50

13

6

1994 Sep

36

49

12

3

1993 Nov

30

56

10

4

1993 Jun

35

50

11

4

1993 Feb

24

65

9

2

1992 Dec

26

59

13

2


Survey Methods

The results from United States polling are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of at least 1,000 adults, 18 years and older. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

United Kingdom Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Gallup U.K. poll with 1,004 respondents, aged 18+, from across Great Britain, conducted Sept. 12-18, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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