Older Americans remember Queen Elizabeth II as 'outstanding'

Linley SandersData Journalist
Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
September 16, 2022, 7:12 PM GMT+0

While separated by an ocean from the Queen's death, most Americans have heard the news, and it appears to have made an impact on a significant number of them: 18% say they've shed tears over her passing. A similar share (22%) say her death has impacted them personally. In tribute to the late Queen, most Americans (64%) support the federal government flying U.S. flags at half-mast. Most Americans who support flying flags at half-mast say the length of time set by the White House – from September 8 until her internment on Sept. 19 – is the right amount of time to fly them as such.

Our recent poll, conducted in the days following her death, suggests that tens of millions of Americans plan to watch the Queen's funeral: One in four (24%) say they want to watch it, and a similar share (20%) want to watch the coronation of her successor, King Charles III. The poll also asked Americans about their viewership of prior royal events. Nearly half (48%) say they've seen footage of the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, and a similar share (47%) say they've seen footage of Diana's wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Fewer have watched the weddings of Charles's sons — Prince William, who married Kate Middleton in 2011 (40% have seen this event); and Prince Harry, who married Meghan Markle in 2018 (38%). Few Americans were alive for the other two events asked about – Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953 and her wedding in 1947 – though around a quarter say they have since viewed footage of each of them.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Americans continue to have an overwhelmingly favorable opinion of her. In recent years, Americans consistently have registered more-positive views of her than of any other member of the current British royal family. In an Economist poll conducted in February, 61% of Americans had a favorable view of the Queen. That jumped to 71% favorability in this week's Economist/YouGov poll that was conducted after her death.

Most Americans say the Queen's record as Britain's monarch, which spanned nearly 70 years, will go down as outstanding (44%) or above average (28%). Most Americans have known only this monarch of Great Britain, and positive assessments are especially high among those who have known of her for the longest: Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans who are 65 and older say Queen Elizabeth II's record will be remembered as outstanding. In that age group, 85% have favorable feelings about her.

Her successor, 73-year-old King Charles III, does not take the throne of England with the same popularity that his mother enjoyed among Americans. American opinion of King Charles III is evenly divided (35% favorable, 37% not favorable), which is an improvement over his standing with Americans in February. Then, 32% were favorable toward him and nearly half (46%) were not. Americans are also much less likely to say King Charles III will be able to live up to the record of Queen Elizabeth II, which spanned almost seven decades. Just 14% think King Charles III's record as Britain's monarch will go down in history as outstanding (4%) or above average (10%). A separate poll shows division as to whether King Charles' reign will make the UK more or less influential on the global stage: 33% say it will lead to less influence and 34% say it won't change the UK's global influence. Far fewer – 7% – say the UK will become more influential.

While 36% of Americans say it is best that King Charles III succeeded Queen Elizabeth II as monarch, 23% would have liked to see the line of succession jump straight to 40-year-old Prince William, who was recently given the title of Prince of Wales. One in nine (11%) say neither Charles nor William, nor anyone else, should have continued the monarchy, while 29% say they don't know. With Queen Elizabeth II's death, Prince William is now the member of the Royal family regarded favorably by the most Americans (64%, up 13 percentage points since February). He is followed in popularity by his wife, Catherine, Princess of Wales (58%, up 8 points). The King’s wife, Queen Consort Camilla, is still viewed favorably by a small share of Americans (28%, up 2 points since February).

– Carl Bialik contributed to this article

Related: Few desire an American monarchy, and most have no regrets about seeking independence from England

Polling by the Economist/YouGov was conducted on September 10 - 13, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll. A separate poll cited in this story was conducted on September 13 - 15, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.

Image: Getty (Chris Jackson )