Beckham Is No 1 Hero to Young People - But Jesus Is 123
By John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent, PA News
Jesus scored only a handful of votes – the same number as US President George W Bush – in a survey of young Britons’ heroes, it was revealed today.
They came 123rd – near the bottom of a list topped by soccer celebrity David Beckham, Hollywood heart-throb Brad Pitt and pop star Justin Timberlake.
Prime Minister Tony Blair shared 69th place with master illusionist David Blaine.
Psychologists asked more than 2,500 young people aged between 16 and 24 to nominate the individuals they most admired.
They were given the opportunity to choose great political thinkers, artists and religious leaders as well as men and women whose faces regularly appear on TV and in glossy magazines.
But the vast majority still opted for sport and showbiz celebrities. Beckham was number one, polling 132 votes, followed by Brad Pitt with 60 and Justin Timberlake with 58.
Next in the top 10 were Michael Jackson, with 46 votes, Jennifer Lopez (45), Robbie Williams (44), Orlando Bloom (41), Britney Spears (36), Keanu Reeves (35) and Angelina Jolie (30).
Study leader Dr Adrian North, from the University of Leicester, said: “Although people could have voted for great political thinkers or artists, their top 10 comprised Hollywood stars, pop musicians and a footballer.
“They went for people with nothing much to say but who look good.
“It’s slightly depressing really. What links all the names in our top 10 is not their great minds but their great looks.”
He thought this was not particularly surprising when young people were continually bombarded with powerful media images that emphasise beauty and youth.
Previous research has shown that highly attractive people are generally thought of more positively than those perceived as less attractive.
One study demonstrated that the tallest candidates tend to win American presidential elections.
Jesus was the most popular religious leader, but still drew only a handful of votes and was ranked alongside President Bush.
“I’ve absolutely no idea what’s happening there,” said Dr North.
“You could say we are a less religious society than we used to be, but if people still believed in big ideas you’d expect the block vote to switch from religious to political leaders. However, that hasn’t happened.”
He did not think there was any special significance to the fact that Tony Blair and David Blaine were equal in the poll.
But he joked: “The Hutton report next week will really tell us who is the true master of escapology.”
The poll was conducted via a web site publicised in schools and universities throughout the UK.
Acting, music, sport and TV were the four top categories from which voters chose their heroes.
Art, at number 13 on the list, came after science and religion.
Dr North is now extending the survey worldwide. Anyone wanting to take part can log on to the web site www.celebritystudy.com.