Winston Churchill defeats Martin Luther King in battle of the orators poll

British public unimpressed by speaking skills of modern leaders

Only Winston Churchill was a more inspiring orator than Martin Luther King, the British public says in a ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday. To mark the 50th anniversary of King's "I have a dream" speech on 28 August, we asked people to compare King with eight other speakers.

The resulting league table shows being dead is the most important qualification for a high ranking, and that current or recent UK politicians are the worst rated. David Cameron is saved from last place only by his immediate predecessor at No 10.

Of our sample, 39 per cent said Churchill was a "more inspiring" speaker than King, and a further 36 per cent that he was "about the same" – presumably thinking of his wartime radio addresses rather than his postwar claim that a Labour government "would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo". Only 11 per cent said Churchill was "less inspiring" than King.

King's speech, once voted by academics as the best US speech of the 20th century, will be commemorated later this month by Americans led by Barack Obama, who is in fifth place. A monument to King is expected to be completed in time for the anniversary after a dispute over the inscription was settled when it was completely erased.

King delivered the speech, as the 16th of 18 speakers, to an audience of 250,000 civil rights marchers gathered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The best-known part of it, the "I have a dream" section, was improvised. The "dream", alluding to "the American dream" and the exclusion of black people from it, was a recurring theme of his speeches. King was assassinated five years later.

John F Kennedy comes third in the table. The 50th anniversary of his assassination, three months after King's speech, falls this 22 November. Margaret Thatcher, whose "lady is not for turning" speech was much replayed when she died in April, comes fourth.

President Obama is the highest-ranked living person. His unscripted address to the White House press corps on the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin last month was a notable performance. "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," he said, before launching into a thoughtful plea for people to respect the law but work to change it.

London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, in sixth place, is the highest living Briton, just ahead of the three most recent prime ministers.

ComRes asked: "For each of the following, please indicate whether you think they were, or are, more inspiring or less inspiring a speaker than Martin Luther King, or about the same?" The scores show the difference between the percentage saying "more inspiring" and that saying "less inspiring".

Rhetoric league

Winston Churchill +28

Martin Luther King 0

JF Kennedy -11

Margaret Thatcher -33

Barack Obama -36

Boris Johnson -62

Tony Blair -71

David Cameron -74

Gordon Brown -79

ComRes interviewed 2,001 GB adults online on 14 and 15 August 2013. Data were weighted to be demographically representative

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London