Welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll for September 2014. Why are Americans so fascinated with royalty and especially England's royal family? Maybe it's those stories, and fairy tales we were told and movies that we watched as children that featured kings and queens.
Anglophiles in America enjoyed a renaissance when Charles and Diana wed in 1981 and again when their son William married Kate Middleton. The closest we ever came to having a royal family in America was when the Kennedy White House was referred to as "Camelot." We haven't been involved in a real monarchy since we sent King George III a termination letter known as the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When the war was over, George Washington quickly squashed a suggestion that he become our new king. Notwithstanding a few areas where we could have done better, the experiment that is America has worked out quite well for our "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
Now, whom would you like to see succeed Queen Elizabeth to the throne, Charles or William? And what American celebrity would you pick as the founding member of a new U.S. royal family? We look forward to your answers, and now the results of our poll...
Next in Line
And the winner is... Prince William the young and popular son of Charles and Diana and the father of another possible King George with 43 percent. His father Prince Charles who is 65 and has been dutifully waiting for his coronation got 30 percent and 28 percent didn't know or weren't sure. It appears that more Americans prefer the newer shinier version of the next "man who would be king."
If they were fourth in line to a throne, 46 percent of Americans would make their own path independent from the royal family. Thirty-eight percent would take their responsibilities seriously (just in case) and eight percent said they would party hard because that's not going to happen. Americans are good at making their own way in life, it's what we do. We're also good at taking our responsibilities seriously when we have to, now if we could only learn to party a little harder.
In a close race, 22 percent of Americans think that Bill Gates would be a good choice to serve as the founding member of a new U.S. royal family. Next in line of succession were Oprah Winfrey 20 percent, Warren Buffet 11 percent, Queen Latifah 11 percent, Chris Rock seven percent and Gwyneth Paltrow four percent. It may be no coincidence that the top three picks are billionaires. In America, money talks and it equates to power. The good news is that Bill, Oprah and Warren are also well-known and respected for their charity and wisdom.
If they were a royal, 46 percent of Americans said they would marry a commoner. Twenty percent would give fancy titles to their closest friends. Fourteen percent would walk around wearing nothing but "their crown jewels" and four percent would pull a Henry VIII and consider beheading their spouse.
Pomp and circumstance
To 36 percent of Americans, the most appealing aspect of royal life is the tradition. Twenty-four percent chose wealth and another 19 percent would take the real estate that comes with the title. Only six percent said the pageantry and royal scandals appealed to only five percent. The lavish trappings are certainly appealing but in the end it's tradition that appeals most to Americans.
Almost three in 10 Americans correctly identified Japan as having the oldest monarchy on the list. Tracing its roots as far back as 660 BC, it is significantly older than the United Kingdom 20 percent, Spain 17 percent, Saudi Arabia 17 percent and Monaco nine percent. Japan's Emperor Akihito can trace his lineage back through 125 emperors, now that's staying power.
From the list of worst monarchs, one out of three Americans picked Russian Tsar Ivan as the most Terrible. Decadent Roman Emperor Caligula was next with 17 percent followed by four European bad boys, King Louis XVI of France 14 percent, King George III of England 10 percent, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany eight percent and King Leopold of Belgium three percent. A list like this is a good reminder of why there are so few monarchies left in the world.
When it comes to Hollywood performances of a royal figure, who can top Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra? Almost three in 10 Americans chose her performance as their favorite despite the cost overruns and the sensational scandal of her affair with costar Richard Burton during the shooting of the movie. Next in order -- all from the British Commonwealth -- were Naomi Watts as Princess Diana 13 percent, Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I 12 percent, Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II 11 percent, Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly 11 percent and Judi Dench as Elizabeth I seven percent.
Up for the job?
Fifty-four percent of Americans agree with Mel Brooks that "it's good to be the king"...and 40 percent abdicated. The brilliant comic director and actor played the scene as King Louis to the hilt, skeet shooting flying peasants out of the air and chasing buxom ingénues through the gardens of Versailles while saying things like, "now there's a naughty bit of crumpet."
Thirty-two percent of Americans correctly chose to answer yes, the pope is officially a monarch and 58 percent said they did not think so. He is technically that rarest of monarchs, a non-hereditary absolute monarch, the sovereign of the state. This pope is popular and for good reason, like his namesake Saint Francis he eschews the material trappings of this world. He's seems far more interested in the kingdom of heaven and the citizens of the world than the past politics of the Vatican.
This poll was conducted by telephone from July 9-13, 2014 among 1,011 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for other subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. Read more about this poll