The King of Horror Keeps His Throne: Stephen King Is Still America’s Favorite Author

NEW YORK, N.Y. – What do telekinetic prom queen Carrie White, DC police consultant Alex Cross, and wonder of the wizarding world Harry Potter all have in common?  Their imaginative creators are none other than America’s top three favorite authors.  Stephen King and James Patterson each retain their spots from 2010, numbers one and two respectively, while J.K. Rowling arrives in the number three position after a long ride up the chain from a tie for ninth place five years ago.  Next up is a tie for fourth place between John Grisham, who previously held third, and Dean Koontz, who is up two spots from his old home at number six.

Stephen is King amongst both men and women, but competition gets fierce amid the various age groups and education levels.

  • Those between the ages of 25 and 64 most prefer a good scare from Stephen King, but 18-24 year olds are pledging their literary love to the works of J.K. Rowling and older adults, 65 and up, favor getting wrapped up in a mystery à la James Patterson.
  • Meanwhile, Americans across most educational levels up through college grads are most enamored with Stephen King, but post grads are more likely to reach for John Grisham.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,273 adults surveyed online between July 15 and 20, 2015.

Next up in the top ten is romance author Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb at number six, down from her previous number four position.  Up from that ninth place tie with J.K. Rowling in 2010, the ruler of the rings himself, J.R.R. Tolkien, is now tied for seventh with an author who is new to the top ten list this year: Samuel Clemens (better known by his pen name, Mark Twain).  Ninth place introduces another new author to the list, Nicholas Sparks.  Rounding out the top ten is Danielle Steel, down from seventh place in 2010.

But in order to make room for newcomers, some authors had to lose their places among the top ten.  Spy specialist Tom Clancy, who unfortunately passed away in 2013, dropped off the list after holding 5th place in 2010, while conspiracy master Dan Brown also dropped from the top ten this year after coming in 8th five years ago.

What’s America’s favorite book genre?  It’s a mystery!

When asked which types of books (from a provided list) they’ve read over the last year, a plurality of Americans (47%) indicate that they’ve been filling their book-bags with mystery, thriller, and crime novels.

Around three in ten Americans have been flipping through history books (33%), biographies/memoirs (31%), and romance novels (27%), while a quarter have read cookbooks/food writing (26%), science fiction (26%), and tales of fantasy (24%).  In addition, around two in ten adults have read classics/literature (23%), health & wellness (22%), religion & spirituality (20%), self-help (19%), and true crime (19%) books in the past year.

But which demo is most attracted to each genre? 

  • The first choice across every generation is mystery/thriller/crime, though it is most read by Matures (66%) and then by Baby Boomers (51%), followed by pluralities of Gen Xers (38%) and Millennials (43%).
  • Mystery/thriller/crime is also the favorite among women (55%), while men are most likely itching to get their hands on history books (46%).
  • Once again, post grads seem to take their own path, torn between whether they are most likely to be found reading history books or biographies/memoirs (51% each), while everyone else is likely to be holding tight to mystery, thriller, and crime novels (45% HS or less, 49% some college, 44% college grads).

 

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TABLE 1a

FAVORITE AUTHOR – Trended

“Who is your favorite author?”

Unprompted responses

                                                  Base: All adults

 

2010

2015

Stephen King

1

1

James Patterson

2

2

J.K. Rowling

=9

3

John Grisham

3

=4

Dean Koontz

6

=4

Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb

4

6

J.R.R. Tolkien

=9

=7

Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain

*

=7

Nicholas Sparks

*

9

Danielle Steel

7

10

                                                 * Not listed in that year

 

On the 2010 List But Dropped off Top 10 This Year – Tom Clancy (was 5), Dan Brown (was 8)

 

 

TABLE 1b

FAVORITE AUTHOR AMONG DIFFERENT GROUPS

Base: All adults

Gender 

Men

Stephen King

Women

Stephen King

Age

18-24

J.K. Rowling

25-29

Stephen King

30-39

Stephen King

40-49

Stephen King

50-64

Stephen King

65+

James Patterson

Education

High School or Less

Stephen King

Some College

Stephen King

College Grad

Stephen King

Post Grad

John Grisham

 

 

 


TABLE 2

TYPES OF BOOKS READ

By Generation, Gender & Preferred Format

“What types of books have you read in the past year? Please select all that apply.”

Base: Adults who read at least one book in average year

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Education

Millennials (18-35)

Gen Xers (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Male

Female

High School or Less

Some College

College Grad

Post Grad

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Mystery, Thriller and Crime

47

43

38

51

66

37

55

45

49

44

50

History

33

29

32

35

44

46

23

27

34

36

51

Biographies/Memoirs

31

24

35

34

31

33

29

24

31

32

51

Romance

27

33

22

25

27

7

44

32

30

17

20

Cookbooks/Food Writing

26

26

31

25

21

18

33

23

32

24

26

Science fiction

26

32

28

22

17

35

19

25

29

28

22

Fantasy

24

37

25

15

10

23

25

29

24

17

20

Classics/Literature

23

32

20

20

17

26

21

15

24

34

33

Health and Wellness

22

27

24

16

19

19

24

19

20

32

20

Religion and Spirituality

20

21

22

18

17

16

23

19

22

20

19

Self-help

19

21

26

15

11

16

22

17

21

22

19

True Crime

19

21

20

17

14

15

22

21

23

15

10

Political

13

12

12

15

16

21

8

7

15

18

23

Current Affairs

13

14

16

12

12

19

9

9

14

17

21

Graphic Novels

13

21

15

5

4

16

10

13

14

12

9

Business

11

15

14

7

2

17

6

9

8

16

17

Poetry

9

16

6

5

2

6

11

8

11

7

8

Chick-lit

8

9

9

8

3

1

14

5

11

11

8

Westerns

7

7

4

6

13

9

5

6

8

7

5

Other Fiction

30

27

23

35

36

25

33

26

33

28

37

Other Non-Fiction

25

27

24

26

16

28

22

22

28

24

29

Note: Multiple responses accepted

 

 

 


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between July 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,273 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

 

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

 

The Harris Poll® #61, October 6, 2015

By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst