Oprah Winfrey’s interview last week was a television ratings bonanza. Seven in 10 Americans (71%) in the latest Economist/YouGov poll watched it, saw clips of it, heard about it, or read news about the interview. Nearly one in five women (18%) claimed they watched all of it, ten points higher than the share of men (8%) who said the same.
There were varied reactions to what the Sussexes said in that interview. On the one hand, Americans overwhelmingly support the young royals’ decision to “step back” from their working roles as part of the British Royal Family (61% support). But the US public’s level of personal sympathy for the couple is not overwhelming (40% have a lot or a fair amount of sympathy).
In addition, one-third of the public (31%) expresses no sympathy at all for them, and while the couple is still generally popular, negative opinions of them have grown in the last year. Women are more sympathetic toward Prince Harry and Meghan (44%) than men (34%); Democrats are more sympathetic (60%) than Republicans (21%).
But the “step back” and the interview has made the public more aware of the Sussexes, with hostility toward the Sussexes growing as a result, especially among some groups. Overall, Prince Harry’s unfavorable ratings rose nine points compared with a year ago (17% to 26%), while negative ratings of Meghan Markle rose ten points (23% to 33%).
That negative movement took place mostly among Republicans; Democrats became slightly more positive toward the couple.
Currently, Republicans are split on Prince Harry (40% favorable, 44% unfavorable), and are clearly negative of the Duchess (29% favorable, 54% unfavorable). At the time last year, when the two were only considering stepping away, Republicans were favorable toward both (though Meghan was still the less popular of the two). Democrats are more favorable today than they were a year ago toward both.
By more than five to one, Black Americans today have a positive opinion of both Prince Harry (61%) and the Duchess of Sussex (59%). In both polls, women (65% and 56% respectively) are more positive than men (51% and 47%) about the two royals.
The turmoil at Buckingham Palace also seems to have affected opinions of other royals – not just the Duke and Duchess – including Queen Elizabeth II, always among the most popular of the British Royals. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and second in the line of succession, saw his favorable ratings drop five points (59% to 54%), while his unfavorable ratings rose eight points (12% to 20%).
Even the Queen’s unfavorable ratings have increased a bit since 2020 (13% to 19%). That being said, she remains the most popular member of the current family: 61% have a favorable view of her, compared to 63% last year. Apart from the Queen, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton are the most popular royals.
Most of the Royal Family are more popular with women than with men. But there are exceptions, most notably Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Both are less popular with women than they are with men. Charles’ first wife, Princess Diana, who died more than two decades ago, is still the most popular: two-thirds (66%) have a favorable view of her, and only 10% do not. Princess Diana is even more popular than the Queen in this poll and (like most of the royals) more popular with women than with men.
Of course, there is one other person associated with the interview – Oprah Winfrey. She is liked overall (54% hold a favorable view, 33% hold an unfavorable view), but there is an enormous partisan and gender split. Men are closely divided (46% favorable/41% unfavorable), while women are favorable by more than two to one (61% vs 28%). Democrats love Oprah: 81% hold a favorable view of the host. Republicans clearly do not, as 61% say they have an unfavorable view of her.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between March 13 - 17, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample.