How Americans rate the Beatles and their songs

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
October 13, 2022, 1:45 PM GMT+0

It's been a busy couple of years for fans of the Beatles. Last week, fans celebrated the 60th anniversary of the release of the British rock band's first single. In June, Paul McCartney — one of two living Beatles — celebrated his 80th birthday in the midst of wrapping up an international tour. At the end of last year, Peter Jackson released a critically acclaimed eight-hour docuseries of never-before-seen footage of the band recording their final album.

A recent YouGov poll finds that three-fourths of Americans (74%) are at least somewhat familiar with the British rock band, and only 9% aren't familiar with them at all. Americans' familiarity with the Beatles differs by age, with people 45 and older being roughly twice as likely as younger adults to have a strong familiarity with their music.

In a poll conducted weeks prior, we asked people familiar with the Beatles to tell us their favorite Beatles song in an open-ended question. Based on answers to this question, as well as other sources, we developed a list of 30 songs which we asked Americans to rate in a series of two subsequent polls.

While nearly every song is loved by more people than hate it, some stand out as the most highly regarded. The four top-rated songs, which were loved by at least half of Americans familiar with the Beatles, are Yesterday (53% love it), Here Comes the Sun (52%), Hey Jude (50%), and Let It Be (50%). Here Comes the Sun has the best net rating: just 5% are not a fan, fewer than for the other three top-rated songs.

A few songs stand out as particularly divisive among Americans familiar with the Beatles. Yellow Submarine is loved by 33% of people, but 21% say they are not a fan of it. Helter Skelter is disliked by nearly as many people who love it (23% love it; 21% are not a fan).

Listen to the songs yourself using the player below:

How do Americans rate the Beatles' band members? Of people who are at least somewhat familiar with the Beatles, 43% say they love McCartney, while somewhat fewer say they love each of the three other band members, including John Lennon (34% love him), Ringo Starr (32%), and George Harrison (31%).

People who said they loved at least one Beatle were asked which of those they love is their favorite. McCartney tops this list as well, by a bigger margin: 45% say he is their favorite. Lennon earns 27% of the vote, while Harrison (17%) and Starr (11%) take third and fourth place.

Despite being the favorite of one in four, Lennon is also the least favorite Beatle of nearly half (49%) of people who say they are "not a fan" of at least one of the band members. This could be due to the fact that many Americans attribute the band's break up to Lennon or his wife Yoko Ono, according to a separate poll conducted last year. In the ranking of least favorite band members, McCartney (21%) and Starr (18%) are a distant second and third to Lennon, while George Harrison is the least favorite of only 12%.

Related: Who broke up the Beatles? More Americans name Yoko Ono than any Beatle

— Andrew Farmer, Carl Bialik, and Linley Sanders contributed to this article.

The poll was conducted among 2,000 U.S. adult citizens in two waves on two separate surveys conducted from August 10 - 12, 2022 and August 11 - 18, 2022, with each survey conducted among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.

Image: Getty (Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer)