Unless you’ve been on another planet for the past week, you can’t have failed to notice Oprah Winfrey on the front page of every paper or on every news channel. The increase in Winfrey related column inches follows her emotional Golden Globes speech praising ‘the incredible men and women’ who spoke out about their experiences with sexual harassment. Understandably the passion and emotion of the speech garnered a lot of attention and lead to subsequent calls for her to run for president.

In response to the media buzz, Atomik Research surveyed their panellists to give their views on celebrities running as political leaders and who, if any, they would choose.

  • Michelle Obama took the top spot for president (28%). Oprah wasn’t far behind her though with 23% and Tom Hanks took joint 3rd place with Morgan Freeman (19%).
  • As for Prime Minister, respondents were most keen to see Stephen Fry take on the job (20%). Patrick Stewart was the second choice at 15% and JK Rowling after that at 12%.

Despite having a candidate they’d be keen to take on the role, the research revealed that only 20% of respondents felt that celebrities should run as political leaders, with only 16% thinking they do a good job. So what is it that the public want from a leader?

67% felt that political leaders needed an interest in politics over anything else. This may explain why Michelle Obama took the top spot for president, after all she’s had more than just a brush with the political system having served as First Lady for 8 years. This may also indicate that maybe the magnitude of the role in question hasn’t been overlooked. After all, being President of the United States, Prime Minister of Great Britain or in fact leader of any country is not your everyday job.

There have been case studies for each side of the argument for electing a celebrity. Ronald Reagan, for example, came from a career as an actor and went on to stimulate economic growth in America and end the Cold War during his presidency. Donald Trump on the other hand has yet to prove any level of political ability, other than knowing how to merely win an election or reshuffle his government.


The second most important trait in a leader, voted for by our panel was morality (63%). This may explain why there have been so many celebrities linked to potential campaigns; over the last few years campaigns calling for Michelle Obama, Dwayne Johnson and even Kanye West to run have taken the internet and media by storm. In most cases these follow a moment of well delivered, impassioned public speaking centred around that celebrity standing up for something they believe in whether it’s women’s rights, equality, mental health or something equally important in society.

The fact that presidential hype follows a speech of some kind may also not be a coincidence as self-confidence (62%), being motivational (61%) and an ability for public speaking (60%) were also considered important characteristics in a political leader according to the research.

Interestingly however, ambition ranked fairly low in importance (32%) when it came to desirable characteristics, suggesting that people want their leaders to motivated by something other than furthering their own career.

Overall, it seems that despite nearly 60% feeling that celebrities don’t make good leaders, they may possess all the skills and characteristics the public are looking for.

By Ruth Davison

Atomik Research Violent Crime Research