Recently, we revealed that US President Barack Obama was the public figure most admired by Australians in 2013 — one of seven politicians (foreign and home-grown) to feature among the 10 people Aussies admire the most. But while the current Budget frenzy may suggest otherwise, there’s more to life than politics, and plenty of non-political public figures also inspired our admiration last year…
Entertainers are the second-most admired category, with 20.1% of Aussies naming at least one person from this field. Generation Z is by far the group most likely to nominate an entertainer (39.5%) as one of their most admired public figures; Pre-Boomers (5.0%) the least likely.
Australia’s own Hugh Jackman tops the list of most admired entertainers, ahead of a cavalcade of US stars: Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, Angelina Jolie and Pink. All are more popular with women than men, and all were named more often than esteemed political figures such as Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke.
What kind of public figures do Australians admire most?
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan 2013- Dec 2013, n= 10,209. Base: Australians 14+ who named at least one public figure. Respondents were asked: ‘Please write down the names of 3 public figures you admire the most’.
‘Prominent Australians’ is another popular category, with entrepreneur Dick Smith being the most admired (sharp-eyed readers will remember he actually made it into the overall Top 10, with 4.0% of Aussies 14+ considering him one of their most admired public figures).
Hot on his heels was media trailblazer, businesswoman and 2013 Australian of the Year, Ita Buttrose. Nominated by 3.8% of Australians as one of the public figures they most admire, she is especially respected by women and her peers in the Boomer generations.
Among the other prominent Australians who inspired admiration in 2013 are several medical identities (epidemiologist Fiona Stanley, neurosurgeon Charlie Teo, ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, plastic surgeon Fiona Wood) and scientist Tim Flannery.
Good sports or good god?
Perhaps surprisingly, sportspeople are only the fifth-most admired category. Headed up by cricketer Michael Clarke (0.9%, or 52nd place), nearly 50 sports stars rated a mention, the overwhelming majority of them male. Just three women made the list: swimmer Dawn Fraser and athletes Cathy Freeman and Sally Pearson. But then, only 7.7% of Australian women named a sportsperson as one of their most admired public figures (compared with 14.2% of men).
The chart below shows the sportspeople named most frequently by respondents, and gives an indication of their relatively low rating compared to public figures in other fields.
Sporting identities named most often
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan 2013- Dec 2013, n= 10,209. Base: Australians 14+ who named at least one public figure. Respondents were asked: ‘Please write down the names of 3 public figures you admire the most’
Meanwhile, 12.4% of the population name at least one religious figure in their most admired list. In fact, three of them — the Dalai Lama, the Pope and Tim Costello — all made it into Australia’s Top 20 most admired list.
The best of the rest: Australia’s other most admired public figures, 2013
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan 2013- Dec 2013, n= 10,209. Base: Australians 14+ who named at least one public figure. Respondents were asked: ‘Please write down the names of 3 public figures you admire the most’. See first 10 admired figures here.
Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, says:
“While there’s no doubt that politicians are more admired than any other category of public figure, it’s interesting to explore what other categories rate highly, and who else Australians most admire.
“Younger Australians (Gens Z, Y and sometimes X), especially women, frequently nominate entertainers as their most admired public figures, which explains why four of the five most popular entertainers are female. Sportspeople tend to be most admired by men, which is also reflected in who they’ve named.
“It’s also enlightening to compare how public figures from different categories rate in the admiration stakes. For example, more Aussies name Angelina Jolie (1.7%) as one of their most admired public figures than those who nominate, say, Fiona Stanley (1.5%). People from scientific and medical fields tend not to be named as often as higher profile identities.
“Admittedly, the percentages become quite small once we delve beyond the Top 10. But it’s worth noting that they’d almost certainly be higher if respondents were given an exhaustive list of names and asked to choose from that. The fact that Australians have named their most admired public figures without any prompting is very significant.”
We have delivered this press release via the Newsmaker media distribution service. If you would like to browse our extensive archive of detailed research findings please visit our website. To stay up-to-date with all our latest research findings you may also join our free weekly newsletter.
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.
P: (03) 9224 5268