Bezos, Buffett, Branson: what do Americans think of billionaires?

July 19, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

With three billionaires featuring prominently in the news recently for their space race antics, the latest Economist/YouGov poll examines how popular a collection of the world’s richest people is among the U.S. public. 

The men who are attempting private space expeditions may be doing something that most Americans support, though they are not especially liked as individuals. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of space firm Blue Origin, receives favorable reviews from only 28% of people, compared to 50% who view him critically. 

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is divisive, with 39% approving of him but 38% disapproving. Musk receives much more positive judgments from Republicans (48% like vs 29% dislike) than Democrats (36% like vs 41% dislike). 

British billionaire Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin conglomerate – including Virgin Galactic whose spacecraft took him to orbit last week – is seen as more popular (34%) than not (23%), although perhaps because more Americans have not heard of him (43%). 

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is the most negatively viewed (26% positive, 60% negative) of all the billionaires we asked about. This is particularly the case among Republicans, 69% of whom dislike him, although half of Democrats also dislike the social media CEO (48%). 

The only woman on the list, television host Oprah Winfrey, is the most well-known billionaire. Opinion about her has also become sharply politicized. Among Americans overall, 45% have a favorable view of her and the same number have a negative one. But Democrats like her by 73% to 18%, while Republicans dislike her by 68% to 27%. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll  

Related: Americans support sending astronauts to the moon and Mars

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between July 10 - 13, 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 3% for the overall sample.   

Image: Getty