The Duke of Sussex’s memoir Spare became the fastest-selling non-fiction book in history after runaway sales on its first day while their Netflix documentary was on the Top 10 list in 85 countries, earning 81.55 million hours watched in the week after it first aired on December 8.
The exposure, however, does not appear to have had a positive impact on their reputations after Harry’s U.S. approval rating plunged 45 points and Meghan’s 36 points between December 5, 2022, and January 16, 2023, according to polling by Redfield & Wilton for Newsweek.
The couple’s standing with Americans has in fact sunk so low that Meghan was marginally less popular than Queen Camilla, even after Season 5 of The Crown brought back to the fore the queen consort’s former status as the “other woman” in King Charles III and Princess Diana‘s marriage.
While the damage appears to have hit Harry and Meghan hardest, the royals have not escaped unharmed either—and that appears to be the case in the U.K. as well as the U.S.
U.S. Reaction to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Revelations
Prince Harry dropped from +38 in polling for Newsweek on December 5—three days before the first episodes of the couple’s Netflix documentary aired—down to -7 on January 16, six days after the release of his book Spare.
That negative figure was made up of 31 percent who liked him and 38 percent who viewed him negatively.
Much of that damage, it would appear, happened in the days that followed the book’s release on January 10 as polling by Ipsos Mori over January 11 and 12 recorded 41 percent of Americans feeling positive about the duke. The pollster does not appear to have recorded the percentage who felt negatively about him, making it impossible to produce a net approval rating.
One possible cause of the change after January 12 could be a clip from the Spare audiobook narrated by Harry in which he discusses putting his mother Princess Diana’s favored Elizabeth Arden lip cream on his frost-bitten penis.
Several versions have emerged, including one posted on January 11 which ultimately gained more than 100k likes and 26.2 million views in the days that followed.
The clip’s exposure built over time and by January 16, when fieldwork for Newsweek‘s poll was conducted, Harry had been roasted by Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, as well as by Chelsea Handler on stage at the Critics Choice Awards on January 15.
Handler said: “Dahmer became the third highest viewed show on Netflix, which a combined watch time of 1 billion hours, which, apparently, is the same amount of time we’re going to have to listen to Prince Harry talk about his frostbitten penis. It’s enough already.”
However, it is never possible to know conclusively why approval ratings swing.
Meghan was on +23 in Newsweek’s December 5 poll and -13 by January 16, a drop of 36 points. The Ipsos Mori poll had 35 percent feeling positive about her, compared to 26 percent in the latest Newsweek poll by Redfield & Wilton.
Prince William was not hit as hard as his younger brother and sister-in-law but did take a significant knock in America with his December 5 approval rating of +40 dropping to +21 by January 16. Kate Middleton was on +43 on December 5 and down to +26 over the same time period.
King Charles III saw a smaller drop from +12 down to +8 while Queen Camilla, who was less popular to begin with, dropped from -2 down to -8.
That all means Kate remains the most popular royal family member in America, as she was in December, though with some of the sheen taken off her reputation.
She is, in fact, only marginally more popular now on +26 than Meghan was on December 5, when she was on +23.
U.S. Public Opinion of the British Royal Family
|Royal Family Member||Very favorable||Favorable||Neither favorable nor unfavorable||Unfavorable||Very unfavorable||Don’t know|
|King Charles III||13%||14%||39%||14%||5%||16%|
|Queen Consort Camilla||7%||11%||37%||16%||10%||18%|
U.K. Reaction to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Revelations
In the U.K., Harry and Meghan were far less popular to begin with, but Prince Harry’s reputation has needless to say taken a significant knock.
On January 11, polling by YouGov showed 68 percent of Brits disliked Harry compared to 24 percent who liked him, giving him a net rating of -44.
That was down from December 8, the day their Netflix show was released, when 59 percent felt negative and 33 percent felt positive, putting him on -26.
Meghan was disliked by 68 percent and liked by 22 percent of Britain on January 11, giving her net figures of -46. This was a smaller drop for the duchess who was on -39 on December 8.
Most of British society appears to have taken the monarchy’s side, but there are signs that the royal family may have experienced significant reputational damage with young people.
The same YouGov polling recorded that among 18 to 24-year-olds, 52 percent wanted to abolish the monarchy, compared to 34 percent who did not.
Overall, 58 percent felt negative towards the royal family in general, compared to 31 percent who felt positive, putting them on -27 among Gen Z.
Prince William is among those to see his popularity among the youngest British adults tumble and he is now down to net zero with 18 to 24-year-olds.
Across all age groups, the picture looks better for the royals but the disaffection among the young is evident.
Prince William was on +62 on December 8 and down to +49 on January 11, still comfortably in positive numbers, but a drop nonetheless of 13 points.
Kate dropped 7 points to +50 over the same period while Charles dropped 2 points to +33. The king, however, had already lost some of the popularity boost he received after Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8.
On September 14, he was on +48 though this dropped in stages, reaching +43 by November 10.
Camilla followed a similar pattern from +22 on September 14 down to +15 on November 10 and +6 on January 11.
Damage to Royals ‘Nowhere Near’ Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Poll Slump
Eric Schiffer, chair of the reputation management company Reputation Management Consultants, told Newsweek: “The damage to the royal family has been nowhere near.
“If I was counseling King Charles on how to manage after Harry’s worldwide media rampage of these orchestrated media bombshells, I would advise the king to stay dark, certainly not reconcile or make peace.
“Certainly make it clear that—if Harry wanted to reconcile—any further bomb drops will lead to the permanent death of any reconciliation but I wouldn’t change a thing beyond that.”
Beyond the reputational implications, Charles and the rest of the royal family will have more personal, emotional decisions to make about Prince Harry’s role within the family in the aftermath of the book.
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