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No more heroes any more

News, 18 March 2015

LONDON: Britons are far less likely than their US counterparts to have a personal hero, although more than half think it is probably a good idea.

New research from pollster YouGov, based on a survey of 1,683 UK adults, found that 54% agreed that "it is generally a good thing that certain people are seen as 'heroes' in society". But a similar proportion (53%) said they personally did not have one.

In fact, less than one third (31%) professed to having a hero and most of them said they had more than one.

Equivalent figures from the US, based on a sample of 997 adults, revealed that 50% had a hero while 38% did not.

More telling transatlantic differences emerged in the identity of the most popular heroes. While parents ranked top in both countries, in the UK Winston Churchill was the runner up, while in the US that position went to Jesus.

Britons also had a more internationalist outlook, citing Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King among public figures after Churchill. In the US, the most chosen public figures were Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.

YouGov identified a partisan split in the US – which was not evident in the UK – as Republicans (59%) were more likely to have heroes than Democrats (48%).

But there were similarities when it came to household income. On both sides of the Atlantic, those people with the highest incomes were more likely to have heroes than those with the lowest: 36% vs 30% in the UK and 55% vs 48% in the US.

Increasing age brings increasing cynicism, at least in the UK, where 42% of 18-24 year olds had a hero, declining steadily to 26% among the over-60s.

In contrast 56% of 18-29 year olds in the US claimed to have a hero, and while this proportion dipped in middle age, it leapt to 64% among the over 65s.

Data sourced from YouGov; additional content by Warc staff