As the world reacts to Nelson Mandela’s death, YouGov reveals that to the British public he was the most respected political figure of the 20th century – alongside Winston Churchill
At 10pm last night the world was shocked by the loss of one of its most revered public figures. Nelson Mandela, age 95, died after receiving months of intensive medical care for a lung infection. The death of the anti-apartheid icon, who led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s and spent 27 years in prison, came as a tragedy to his country, whose president said “our nation has lost its greatest son”.
But he was one of Britain’s greatest icons, too. Research conducted by YouGov earlier this year reveals that a huge majority, 81%, have a positive impression of Mandela.
More importantly, he is the most respected political figure of the 20th century by the British public, alongside Winston Churchill and ahead of many home-grown leaders.
When asked which three or four major political figures they respect most, 50% choose Nelson Mandela, the same amount as who choose Winston Churchill – often considered one of the greatest statesman of the 20th Century.
Even Queen Elizabeth II falls behind Mandela, with 47% choosing her. Martin Luther King, another great civil rights campaigner, is chosen by 41%, while 30% choose the also recently deceased Margaret Thatcher.
Along with the start of a mourning process in South Africa, and perhaps the world over, a series of engagements lasting roughly ten days now begins. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend, including heads of states and dignitaries such as Barack Obama, the Pope, the Queen and David Cameron. One senior foreign diplomat said “It is going to be the biggest state funeral since Winston Churchill”.