61% have heard of Ayn Rand, 35% have a favorable view

July 29, 2011, 6:41 PM GMT+0

Ayn Rand, the American author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, is known for her philosophy called Objectivism, which celebrates reason, self-interest and human achievement. Since the middle of the twentieth century, she has achieved a following among some Conservatives and Libertarians. Recently, there has been increased interest in Rand and her ideas among the Right, with high profile Republicans such Paul Ryan touting her philosophy. A recent YouGov survey reveals that while a majority of Americans have heard of Rand, fewer agree with her.

According to the survey, 61% respondents have heard of Ayn Rand. Across political party affiliations, Democrats and Republicans are about equally likely to have heard of the author. Independents are slightly more likely to have heard of her than members of either party.

Across political ideologies, a different pattern emerges: those who identify themselves as Liberal and those who identify themselves as Conservative are more likely to have heard of her than Moderates (with respectively 75% and 71% of Liberals and Conservatives saying they have).

Among those who have heard of her, opinion on her philosophy remains fairly evenly split:

  • 35% hold a generally favorable opinion of her philosophy,
  • 31% have a neutral view
  • 35% see it unfavorably
  • A slim majority of Republicans have a positive view (51%), while a majority of Democrats have a negative view (62%).

Numbers of respondents who actively follow Ayn Rand’s philosophy are smaller. Of those who have heard of her:

  • 5% consider themselves an Objectivist (a follower of her philosophy)
  • 20% say they have been influenced by her philosophy, but are not Objectivists
  • 61% flatly say they are not Objectivists

We also asked respondents how they felt about a statement which encapsulates a key element of Ayn Rand’s philosophy—"The proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own self-interest"—but did not specifically tell respondents it was her idea.

The majority (57%) of respondents disagreed with the statement, while around 8% said they completely agreed with it and 27% said they somewhat agreed. Across political party affiliations, a similar number of Democrats and Republicans agreed (respectively 37% and 33%) or disagreed with the statement (respectively 55% and 58%).

Image Source: Press Association