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August 16 is 23rd Anniversary of Elvis' Death; Americans Still Consider Him the King of Rock and Roll

August 16 is 23rd Anniversary of Elvis' Death; Americans Still Consider Him the King of Rock and Roll

by Chris Chambers


PRINCETON, NJ -- August 16th marks the 23rd anniversary of Elvis Presley's untimely death. Known as the "Hillbilly Cat" when he first toured the South in 1954, Elvis finally made his big splash on the national stage in 1956 when he appeared on Ed Sullivan's Talk of the Town TV show. Nearly half a century later, in a Gallup poll conducted March 5-7, 1999, Elvis was overwhelmingly named the greatest individual Rock and Roll star of all time by 33% of Americans. His closest competition came from Mick Jagger in second place with 5% mention, followed by Elton John with 3%. While Elvis was a soloist throughout his career, he also managed to garner 1% of the vote for greatest Rock and Roll band of all time.

Elvis' Appeal Spans Age Groups
Nearly half of Americans -- 45% -- called themselves "fans" of Elvis according to a Gallup poll conducted August 12-13, 1997 on the 20th anniversary of his death. . Elvis' popularity was strongest with baby boomers, thirty to forty-nine years old, among whom a majority (54%) consider themselves fans. Forty-six percent of 50 to 64 year olds, 38% of 18 to 24 year olds, and 32% of those 65 and older were self-proclaimed Elvis fans. The level of support expressed by the youngest age group -- 18 to 24 year olds -- is perhaps a testament to The King's lasting legacy -- he passed away before many of them were born.

While the Sullivan show limited its exposure of Elvis to just the waist up, contemporary society appears much more accepting of Presley's style. Seventy-one percent of Americans say that Elvis had a good influence on American culture and society overall. Just 17% think he had a bad influence and 5% say his influence was mixed.

Four in ten Americans said they would be willing to pay to see Elvis perform if he were alive today. Nearly two-thirds of those who consider themselves fans of Elvis -- 66% -- would pay to see him perform in person. In addition, 18% of those who do not consider themselves fans would be willing to pay to see him perform.

Very Few Americans Believe Elvis is Alive Today
"Elvis Lives" is the mantra of many of The King's fans, and many have speculated over the years that Presley did not die, but rather went into hiding. Several people have reported "Elvis sightings" in recent years, but the vast majority of Americans do in fact believe that Elvis is in fact dead. Only 4% of Americans believed that Elvis is alive when asked in the 1997 poll, while 93% of Americans were certain Elvis is no longer alive, with 3% are unsure.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 819 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 12-13, 1997 and 1,021 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 5-7, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you personally believe Elvis Presley is still alive, or not

4% Yes
93 No
No opinion

Do you consider yourself a fan of Elvis Presley, or not?

45% Yes, a fan
55 No, not a fan
No opinion

If Elvis Presley were alive today, would you pay to see him perform, or not?

40% Yes
59 No
No opinion

IF YES: How much would you be willing to pay in order to watch Elvis Presley perform in person?

26% Under $25
32 $25-49
17 $50-99
19 $100 or more
No opinion
MEAN $210

If you had to choose, would you say that, overall, Elvis Presley had a good influence or a bad influence on American culture and society?

71% Good influence
17 Bad influence
No opinion

What do you think is the greatest Rock and Roll band or group of all time?

99 Mar 5-7 95 Aug 28-30**  
29% 26% The Beatles
9 9 The Rolling Stones
3 4 Led Zeppelin
2 3 The Eagles
2 -- Aerosmith
2 -- The Beach Boys
1 3 The Grateful Dead
1 -- U2
1 1 The Who
1 -- Pink Floyd
1 -- Elvis
1 -- Fleetwood Mac
1 -- Creedence Clearwater Revival
1 -- Bill Haley and the Comets
1 -- AC/DC
1 -- Bob Seger
1 -- Lynard Skynard
1 -- The Doors
1 -- The Bee Gees
1 -- Metallica
13 23 Other (all less than 1%)
4 5 NONE (VOL.)
No opinion

** Based on half sample

Thinking of individual singers or band members, who do you think is the greatest Rock and Roll star of all time?

99 Mar 5-7 95 Aug 28-30**  
33% 35% Elvis Presley
5 4 Mick Jagger
3 -- Elton John
2 1 Bruce Springsteen
2 3 Jimi Hendrix
2 2 Paul McCartney
2 5 Michael Jackson
2 2 Eric Clapton
1 2 John Lennon
1 -- Ozzy Osborne
1 -- Steven Tyler
1 -- Robert Plant
1 -- Fats Domino
1 -- Bob Seger
1 -- Prince
1 -- Billy Joel
1 -- Garth Brooks
1 1 Rod Stewart
-- 1 Bob Dylan
* 2 Jerry Garcia
15 13 Other (all less than 1%)
2 3 NONE (VOL.)
No opinion

*Less than 0.5%
** Based on half sample

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