Famous footwork

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
September 11, 2010, 2:48 AM GMT+0

The widespread speculation that the contestant line-up for this year’s BBC One dance show Strictly Come Dancing is looking strong is supported by the public, with many of the celebrities being widely recognised, according to our recent poll.

One of television’s more popular reality shows, Strictly Come Dancing is back for an eighth series with a special launch show this Saturday. The show pairs up celebrities with professional dancers, who teach them routines in various dancing disciplines such as ballroom or salsa, before each pair competes against the others in a bid to impress both the judges and the viewing public and avoid elimination from the show.

Lacklustre line-up?

Despite its popularity, the programme has come under a lot of criticism in previous years, especially for its repeatedly ‘underwhelming’ line-ups of celebrities.

This year however, when we asked the British public which of the contestants they had heard of, our survey revealed that nine of the 14 names were recognised by over 50% of the population. Politician Ann Widdecombe is the most well-known contestant, having been heard of by 94%, while other contestants, magician Paul Daniels and actresses Patsy Kensit and Felicity Kendal were not far behind with scores of 92%, 91% and 87% respectively. At the other end of the scale, the least heard of contestant is Eastenders and The Bill actor Scott Maslen, whose name only 21% of people recognise.

Dancing prowess

The bookies’ favourites to win the show at this stage are Eastenders ‘screen siren’ Kara Tointon and US girl group Destiny’s Child star Michelle Williams. It thought that Tointon, who won a one-off Sport Relief version of Strictly in 2008, and Williams, who has danced alongside bandmates Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland for years, have the necessary dancing experience to stand them in good stead for the trials to come.

Dancing prowess, however, is not necessarily the ticket to success. Despite scathing comments from the judges last year, the public loved broadcaster John Sergeant, prompting him to step down from the competition after his popularity went ‘beyond a joke’ when it looked like he could win.

Waltzing to victory

Indeed, our survey reveals that Coronation Street sweetheart, Tina O’Brien, is the favourite among the public to win: 11% of those asked chose her, the biggest percentage given to any single contestant by our panel. Tointon received eight percent while Williams saw just five percent of the vote. And despite recognising his name, less than one percent of the public thought Daniels was a favourite to win.

A notable 38% said they did not know who would win – and in fact, in the past it has sometimes been the less than obvious choices who have emerged victorious: for example, cricketer and Strictly underdog Darren Gough went on to come first in both the 2005 series and the Christmas Special of that year.

With this weekend’s launch show revealing which celebrity will team up with which professional dancer, and live shows beginning in October, the excitement surrounding Strictly could soon be set to soar.

Survey details and full results

Likelihood to win

From left to right, Top row: Matt Baker 5%, Tina O'Brien 11%, Michelle Williams 5%, Gavin Henson 8%, Goldie 1%, Patsy Kensit 7%, Paul Daniels 0%.

From left to right, Bottom row: Ann Widdecombe 2%, Scott Maslen 2%, Kara Tointon 8%, Pamela Stephenson 2%, Felicity Kendal 8%, Jimi Mistry 2%, Peter Shilton 1%.

Images courtesy of the Press Association. Illustration by Hannah Thompson.