People in Britain rate committed campaigners such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King far more highly than celebrities such as Sir Bob Geldof and Angelina Jolie, a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the international development agency Christian Aid shows.
More than one in five (21 per cent) of those polled chose former South African President Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid, as the campaigner they most admired.
Martin Luther King Jr, who campaigned for the rights of black people in the United States, was second choice with 14 per cent of those polled. The suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst came third with 12 per cent.
Sir Bob Geldof, rock star and founder of Live Aid, was chosen by six per cent of voters, and actress and Angelina Jolie, who does humanitarian work with refugees, drew two per cent of the vote.
The online poll was commissioned by Christian Aid to highlight the launch of its Transformation project taking place in towns and cities across the UK in September and October. A series of events will show people how to campaign more effectively on issues such as climate change, and global poverty.
‘We wanted to find out who people in the UK most admired when it came to campaigning, which global problem worried them most, and what they would be prepared to do about it. The results were fascinating,’ said Christian Aid campaigns manager Rhian Beynon.
The three biggest concerns of those polled were ‘poverty, hunger and disease’ (31 per cent) ‘war and human conflict’ (29 per cent) and ‘climate change’ (15 per cent).
The United Kingdom is sometimes labelled a nation of moaners, but the poll showed that a large proportion of people are prepared to take action on issues of concern to them.
Some 75 per cent of respondents said they would sign a petition highlighting an issue of importance to them, 65 per cent would vote for a party promising to tackle the issue, 49 per cent would lobby their MP and more than a quarter, 27 per cent, would go on a demonstration. Startlingly, more than one in ten (11 per cent) would be willing to break the law in a non-violent way (e.g. trespassing) for a cause that was close to their heart.
Seventy per cent said it was their right to hold the government to account for its decisions. More than half of respondents (54 per cent) felt that the actions of individuals could help change the world. And more than a quarter (27 per cent) agreed that they want to show solidarity with those directly affected by world problems.
More than half (51 per cent) of people polled said they would donate to a charity that aims to tackle the problem of concern to them, while 19 percent of respondents said they regularly support a campaigning charity.
Only 6 per cent of those polled were members of a political party while 13 per cent attended a church or faith group. Trade union membership stood at 17 per cent.
‘It is very encouraging that such a large proportion of people regard poverty, hunger and disease as matters of real importance – rather than just something that happens to people in poor countries,’ said Rhian Beynon.
‘And it is also encouraging that so many are prepared to take action to help tackle issues of importance to them by using their votes and signing petitions.
‘Almost half of those polled, for instance, 49 per cent, said they would consider using their right to write or meet with their MP about issues of concern to them. We now want to reach those in the other 51 per cent who may either lack the confidence, or just don’t know how to set about arranging such a meeting.
‘There is a lesson here for people actively involved in politics,’ she added .‘Churches, faith groups and campaigning charities have the support of more than a third of the population (32 per cent) while political membership in the poll stood at just six percent.
‘Politicians need to listen to the issues that concern people and act accordingly. Sixty five per cent of those polled said they would vote for a party tackling a cause dear to their heart.’
The Transformation events will give people access to decision makers such as MPs and MEPs, and offer participants workshops on how to lobby effectively.
Participants will be asked to take a ‘Countdown to Copenhagen Pledge’, which commits them to campaigning for a fair international deal on climate change.
Their first task will be to campaign on the climate change agreement which governments must finalise in the Danish capital Copenhagen in December 2009. Christian Aid says the agreement must enshrine the developing world’s right to economic development.
In addition, it should require rich countries, which are overwhelmingly responsible for the climate crisis, to supply the funding and technology that developing countries need for clean development.