Friday, September 6th, 2013 - Roy Morgan Research
The recent news that Scottish actor Peter Capaldi would be the new Doctor Who was met with excitement by fans around the world. In tribute to this legendary show (and others like it), Roy Morgan Research asks: are sci-fi fans really as nerdy as cliché would have us believe?

The recent announcement that Scottish actor Peter Capaldi would be the new star of long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who was met with excitement by media and fans around the world. In tribute to this legendary show (and others like it), Roy Morgan Research ponders the question: are people who watch science fiction on TV really as nerdy as cliché would have us believe?

If a nerd is someone with strong academic or technological leanings, well then yes — they are. For starters, sci-fi viewers are 20% more likely than the average Australian to have a university degree. They’re 18% more likely to identify as intellectual, and 19% more likely to have read a non-fiction book in the last three months.

They also rate consistently highly in terms of techie know-how. Not only are viewers of sci-fi shows more likely to be Technology Early Adopters than the average Aussie, they’re likelier to own gadgets such as e-readers and MP3 players, and to play computer games at home.

(Curiously, they’re not so interested in mobile phones: for example, only 21.1% agree with the statement ‘I can’t live without a mobile phone’ – well below the national average of 30.7%).

Geek chic

But there’s more to the popular stereotype of the nerdy sci-fi fan than just the super-brain angle.

From The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper to obsessive Trekkies stalking William Shatner at Star Trek conventions, another key trait is a large dose of social awkwardness. Clichéd though that may be, it’s interesting to note that almost half (49.7%) of sci-fi viewers report that ‘I’m shy in social situations’ — 13% higher than the national average — and only 22.8% consider themselves ‘more extrovert than introvert’ (17% below average).

And then there’s ‘geek chic’. Ask any hipster: this fashion look based on horn-rimmed glasses and ‘ironically’ frumpy clothes is cool. Even more ironic? The fact that most sci-fi viewers aren’t interested in fashion: they’re 34% less likely than the average Australian to believe ‘it’s important to look fashionable’ and 31% less likely to ‘wear clothes that will get me noticed.’

Source:Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2012 – June 2013 (n = 19,003).

George Pesutto, Industry Director — Media, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Though viewers of TV sci-fi shows like Dr Who and Star Trek comprise just 4.6% of the population, this probably makes them easier to pinpoint than the much larger, more diverse portions of the population who watch TV dramas (48.6%) or reality programs (44.2%).

“It’s well known that many clichés originated in fact, and we were interested to find that the profile of the typical sci-fi viewer bears striking similarities to the popular stereotype. These days, however, being a sci-fi nerd is no longer considered uncool: witness the media flurry about Peter Capaldi and the popularity of geek-comedy The Big Bang Theory — Australia’s most-loved TV show, no less.

“After all, in these days of ever-changing and often confusing technology, being brainy is a major advantage. And with the rise of social media, even the shyest individual can socialise with ease.”

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Roy Morgan Research


Roy Morgan Research is Australia's best known and longest established market research and public opinion survey company. Roy Morgan Single Source is thorough, accurate, and provides comprehensive, directly applicable information about current and future customers. It is unique in that it directs all the questions to each individual from a base survey sample of around 55,000 interviews in Australia and 15,000 interviews in New Zealand annually - the largest Single Source databases in the world. The questions asked relate to lifestyle and attitudes, media consumption habits (including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, cinema, catalogues, pay TV and the Internet), brand and product usage, purchase intentions, retail visitations, service provider preferences, financial information and recreation and leisure activities. This lead product is supported by a nationally networked, consultancy-orientated market research capability.
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Scottish actor Peter Capaldi, new Doctor Who

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