Just over a month before his first trip to America on official business in almost a year, Prince William couldn’t have asked for a nicer surprise. Astonishingly, a new survey of over 1,000 American adults by the respected polling firm Gallup asking them whether they approved or disapproved of 15 “newsmakers” found that William came out top of the contenders.
The field was, admittedly, slightly haphazard, including as it did his dad King Charles, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, Jill Biden, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (the only other individual to come close to William’s +37 favorability rating).
What accounts for William’s stellar ranking? Is it a testament to the wisdom of the British royal family’s policy of studiously ignoring and not responding to attacks on William and Kate and the rest of the family by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? Or does it, perhaps, offer a glance at the enduring fascination the British royal family continues to exert on the American psyche?
William’s office declined to comment on the poll results when contacted by The Daily Beast. However, a personal friend of William and Kate’s said: “They have been quietly getting on with the job, letting actions speak louder than words. With everything going on in the world, people appreciate that.”
“America is so politically divided that I’m not surprised more people overall would approve of Prince William than either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.”
— Victoria Arbiter
Asked if they were drawing a contrast between William and Kate and Harry and Meghan (who, it is fair to say, have been unusually voluble for royals over the past few years, even if a little quieter of late), the friend said: “Harry and Meghan were not part of this survey so it’s not about comparing them. But maybe the days of everything William and Kate do being refracted through the lens of Harry and Meghan are coming to an end.”
The royal biographer Victoria Arbiter, who was brought up in Kensington Palace when her father, Dickie, was the late Queen Elizabeth’s spokesman, told The Daily Beast that the results of the poll should be treated with caution.
“America is so politically divided that I’m not surprised more people overall would approve of Prince William than either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
“But there is no question that there is a lingering respect for much of the monarchy across America, partly because it delivers a head of state who is politically neutral. There is huge affection for William because of Diana, and there is a sense that he is now living the happy ending that Diana never got—happily married and raising his children.”
Indeed, Gallup, in an article accompanying the findings, speculated that memories of Diana could also explain why William has even more stratospheric approval ratings among American women, 69 percent of whom like him, compared to 50 percent of men.
Arbiter said that the results of the survey, caveats aside, were excellent news for William, who is due to be in America on Sept. 16 and 17 this year for a conference connected with his Earthshot Prize, which gives awards of $1 million to five ecological innovations every year. Earthshot, which takes its name from President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot speech, aims to “find and grow the solutions that will repair our planet this decade.”
Arbiter said: “I was in Boston for his last visit [also for the Earthshot Prize] and there were huge numbers of people there to see him. It wasn’t the Beatlemania we saw for Queen Elizabeth or Princess Diana, but people like him, and clearly this is a really great piece of polling for him ahead of his upcoming visit.”
In Britain, however, people seem largely baffled by William’s elevated ranking in America. On hit daytime show This Morning news review panelist Isla Traquair said, “Most of them (Americans) don’t really know who he is…I think he’s inoffensive to them.” In the list of names offered to those polled, Traquair said, William “was the best of a bad lot.”
Host Craig Doyle said William’s victory was “sad” for Harry in the same week that his HRH status was removed from the royal family’s website, and while he was trying to make “a name for himself” in America. Panelist Nick Ferrari said the poll was evidence of “the Diana effect”: William’s triumph was a reflection of Americans’ enduring love for Princess Diana, he said, and how William had lost his mother at such a young age. Echoing Traquair, Ferrari noted that if choosing between William, Biden, and Trump, “we all know who we’d go for.”
Gallup itself said that the results were surprising: “The signers of the Declaration of Independence would be surprised to know that nearly 250 years after they sought freedom from the ‘tyranny’ of the British crown, the highest-ranking members of that institution would be more popular in the United States than the nation’s own democratically elected and appointed leaders.”
Historical irony may not be front-of-mind for William and Kate’s shrewd, media-savvy young team. They are instead likely to be pondering how they might leverage this evidence of William’s enduring popularity into fat contributions to the Earthshot Prize from rich American supporters.
Opinions on Harry and Meghan were not sought in this survey, but its results come at a time of mixed fortunes for the couple. Their mega-bucks deal with Spotify ended abruptly earlier this year, and they were dismissed as “fucking grifters” by one executive at the platform.
Attention will soon turn to the question of whether they can turn the tide—and win control of America back from William and Kate. Those who argue they can will likely point to the fact that Netflix has recently reaffirmed their commitment to the couple by buying up the rights to the hot new novel Meet Me at the Lake for them, reportedly for $3 million.
That’s hardly the move of a streamer giving up on some of its most expensive and high-profile talent. If the Sussexes can make a hit of the book, they will be firmly back in top spot.
Harry seems on a mission to reboot on his core USP as an activist for good. Next month he has the launch of his event for wounded veterans, the Invictus Games, and on a trip to Japan this week he declared, “My life is charity—always has been, always will be.”
However, it was notable that what caught the attention of newspapers and the media was less this rededication to good works, and more Harry and his glamorous friend, the polo player Nacho Figueras, posting photos of themselves out shopping for expensive sunglasses for their wives.
He could learn a little from the iron discipline that his former spinmasters at the Palace used to insist on. Let’s just say that you won’t catch William and Kate distracting from their core message by posting shopping selfies when they are in America next month.
Meghan, meanwhile, stayed resolutely out of the fray while controversy swirled around her husband’s book and was seen most recently on Tuesday attending Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour concert in Los Angeles (first reported by Page Six), with People reporting that Meghan “jumped out of her chair” to sing along to the hit “You Belong With Me” after Swift told the crowd, “Let’s go back to high school!”
The Mail has reported that Meghan is forging ahead with solo career plans, separate to Harry’s, having newly signed with powerful agent Ari Emanuel at WME. “What’s expected to come next for Meghan is a string of commercial endorsements in fields meaningful to her, such as food, wellness, fashion and therapy,” the Mail reported. Plus, “a book, most likely with a feminist angle.”
A source told Page Six that the WME deal was intended to make Meghan “a power player in Hollywood. Even though she is, of course, an actress, this isn’t about movies or shows for Meghan to star in, it is about creating projects for her to produce—she wants to run the show.”
It remains to be seen whether Harry and Meghan will react as angrily to William and Kate’s arrival on “their” U.S. shores next month as they did in December last year when they appeared to try to disrupt the choreography of the Earthshot Prize last year by releasing two bombshell trailers for their Netflix series, Harry & Meghan, at either end of their trip. (“If tomorrow is Prince William’s Super Bowl, then here’s your Halftime Show,” Omid Scobie, the reporter and sympathetic biographer of the couple tweeted when the first trailer dropped.)
Christopher Andersen, a bestselling writer whose latest book, The King, is a biography of Charles, told The Daily Beast: “Now that Charles is king, William is one step closer to the throne, and there is an element of gravitas attached to that. Kate obviously also accounts for a large part of William’s appeal. There is an almost unreal, practically perfect Barbie quality to Kate. If she has any flaws, Americans aren’t seeing them. Kate hasn’t put a foot wrong, and as a result she is as popular in the U.S. as she is in the U.K. All this redounds to William’s benefit.
“There are plenty of rich Americans who will be jockeying for position when William and Kate visit the U.S. in mid-September…”
— Christopher Andersen
“William and Kate represent strong family values, stability, devotion to duty, dignity, charm—all in strong contrast to the constantly complaining, seemingly self-obsessed Sussexes. The Cambridges seem to float above the chaos.”
But Harry and Meghan still have their voluble supporters and fans, as they seek to find a renewed purpose and focus in their American lives. The new film deal, and their return to public life and headlines in recent weeks, signal they are far from done consolidating the Sussex brand on home turf. But the Gallup poll shows that they have competition from the most unlikely source: William—a royal who has not done any of the high-voltage PR they have conducted, and yet who has won those hearts and minds anyway.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if William’s handlers wave the results of this poll under the noses of prospective U.S. donors to his Earthshot Prize,” Andersen told The Daily Beast. “There are plenty of rich Americans who will be jockeying for position when William and Kate visit the U.S. in mid-September anyway. But this just adds to William’s luster—who wouldn’t want to bask in the reflected glow of presumably the most popular man in the country?”