Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

If you were asked to note down the names of the three public figures you admired the most, who would you pick? A politician? A scientist? A sporting hero? One of each? In this day and age of brawling media tycoons and naughty rugby players, lying MPs and disgraced celebrities, it’s not necessarily an easy task. And funnily enough, the public figure named most often by admiring Australians last year isn’t even Australian. 

Put your hands together for Barack Obama!

In 2013, the US President was named by 12.7% of Australians aged 14+ as one of the public figures they most admire. In fact, of the five people whose names came up most often, only two were Australian: former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard (12.3%) and John Howard (7.7%). Nelson Mandela and the Queen also made the top five.

Australia’s 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’

The gender perspective

There was a fairly even gender split among President Obama’s admirers, with 48.6% being women and 51.4% being men. Among former South African President Nelson Mandela’s admirers, the female-male breakdown was similarly close (54.4% women; 45.6% men).

In contrast, women named Julia Gillard and the Queen almost twice as often as men did, while men were far more likely than women to name former PM John Howard as one of their most admired public figures.

Further down the list, but still among Australia’s 10 most admired public figures, current PM Tony Abbott was more than twice as popular among men as women, and former Governor General Quentin Bryce was named by more than twice as many women as men.

The generation* gap in action

Of course, a person’s age influences the type of public figure they most admire. Generations Y and Z are far more likely to admire President Obama than Pre-Boomers, for example. Tony Abbott’s admirers, meanwhile, are dramatically more likely to be from the Pre-Boomer generation, as are those who named the Queen.

The chart below shows how likely, or unlikely, each generation is to admire President Obama (top half of chart) or Queen Elizabeth (bottom half).

Barack Obama, the Queen of England and the generations that admire them


This chart shows the index of the target profile group compared to the population average, with 100 being the average. Source:Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2013- December 2013, n= 10,209. Base: Australians 14+ who named at least one public figure.

While all generations are more likely admire politicians than any other category, younger Australians tend to rate entertainment and sporting identities among their most admired public figures more often than older members of the population.

But just who are these admired entertainers and sports stars? Stay tuned for our next release, Hugh, Oprah, Ellen or Gough? Australia’s most admired, part 2.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Throughout the year, as part of its Product Poll, Roy Morgan Research asks Australians to name three public figures they admire the most. Last year revealed some fascinating, sometimes surprising results — one of which is the enduring popularity of former PM John Howard, some six years after he was voted out.


“What’s more, despite the fact that State MPs and Federal MPs are among the least trusted professions in Australia, politicians are widely admired by Australians of all ages, with 64.7% naming at least one. Tellingly, although last year’s key players (Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull, Rudd) all made the Top 10, Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela generally out-ranked them.


“But one has to wonder: are politicians so widely admired simply because they’re so omnipresent and unavoidable in Australian public life, compared to other ‘quieter achievers’? 


“At any rate, these findings dispute the cliché that Australians revere sporting heroes above all others. The most admired sportsperson, cricketer Michael Clarke, staggered in at 52nd. But more about that in our next release…”

* Roy Morgan ‘Generations’ definitions:

Pre-Boomers — Pre 1946; Baby Boomers — 1946-1960; Generation X — 1961-1975; Generation Y — 1976-1990; Generation Z — 1991-2005.

Read this release on our website.

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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.
Samantha Wilson
P: (03) 9224 5268


barack obama, julia gillard, nelson mandela, john howard, queen elizabeth, public figures




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