In 2016, the United States elected its first purely celebrity president. In hindsight, maybe not the best idea. But since we now know that it doesn't take anything more than being famous to become president, which politically active celebrity would Americans be most likely to vote for in 2020? Can we do a better job this time? Could we possibly do worse?
The Daily Show and YouGov set out to determine who would have the best shot at becoming America’s next celebrity president.
Survey respondents were given the names of two randomized public figures in a series of head-to-head matchups and asked which they would rather make president of the United States.
The people have spoken: Morgan Freeman should be the next celebrity president of the United States.
Freeman was chosen as the pick for president in 81 percent of the head-to-head matchups he faced. Not far behind is Denzel Washington, who triumphed in 76 percent of his matchups. Tom Hanks (73%), Samuel L. Jackson (73%), and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (72%) round out the top five. The only celebrity officially running in 2020, Kanye West, won only 30 percent of his matchups.
The Daily Show/YouGov poll is the first of its kind and marks the only time YouGov has partnered with a comedy program. The content is funny, but there are some seriously revealing trends in the data.
Notably, it seems many Americans would be happy to have another Black president. Three out of the top five winners of the head-to-head matchups are African Americans. A fourth is half Black Canadian and half Samoan.
Among white Americans, Freeman (83%) and Washington (78%) come out on top, followed by Hanks (75%), Jackson (73%) and Judge Judy Sheindlin (72%).
Among non-white Americans, Freeman remains the top pick with 76 percent choosing him in a head-to-head. Will Smith (74%) and The Rock (74%) also fare well, along with Jackson (72%) and John Legend (72%).
See the full breakout of results by race
Interestingly, the top two choices for Republicans have both campaigned for Democratic candidates. Morgan Freeman supported Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but he is generally not very outspoken about his politics and tends to use unifying language when the subject comes up, for instance saying that he understands why Trump voters feel disillusioned. Republican's second choice, Judge Judy Sheindlin, is a registered Independent who campaigned for Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic primary. In doing so she talked about how Republicans and Democrats both need to "calm down the rhetoric."
Of course, opinions can change as celebrities become more politically active. This survey was conducted before Dolly Parton (who won 71% of her matches among Republicans and 66% among Democrats) spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter, before Eva Longoria (who had a 54% win rate with Democrats and 57% with Republicans) hosted the first night of the Democratic National Convention, and before Tracee Ellis Ross (50% win rate with Dems; 42% with Republicans) hosted night two.
The Daily Show/YouGov survey also looked at the top celebrity presidents among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Morgan Freeman is in the top five for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, and is the top choice for Republicans.
Age makes a difference
Younger Americans, surprisingly, don’t choose Freeman as often. Those in the 18-34 age range were among the only group in The Daily Show/YouGov Next Celebrity President survey to choose a white man as their top choice. Leonardo Di Caprio earns the highest win percentage among this age range, followed by L. Jackson, Matt Damon, Freeman, and Chris Evans.
Among female respondents, Judge Judy and Dolly Parton are the only women to crack their top ten. Judge Judy ranks No. 18 among men as the first woman on that segmented list. Overall, 69 percent of Americans pick Judge Judy in a head-to-head matchup, while 67 percent say the same of Parton and an equal number (67%) say the same of actress Betty White.
See the full breakout of results by gender
Get into the data yourself
You can page or search through the table below to see where your favorite celebrities rank. Spot a trend? Let us know.
Methodology: The Daily Show/YouGov survey consisted of 2,586 panelists and ran between August 7 - 11. Every person was randomly assigned to see 30 celebrities, which appeared in 15 head-to-head matchups. For each, respondents were asked to indicate which of the celebrities in the head-to-head matchup they would prefer as the next to become president. For more information, see our methodology page and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or see the cross tabs here.