By Sheila G | on 08/10/16

When earnings aren’t a factor: the celebrities Americans value most

According to Forbes’ highest paid celebrities list, Taylor Swift has earned an astonishing $170M over the last 12 months. While the sheer volume of money she’s made is enviable, we were left asking—is she worth it? Are any of the celebrities on Forbes’ list? Is their financial success indicative of their true value? How are they perceived by the public—the very people contributing to their success?

In an effort to answer these questions, the team developed SurveyMonkey Measures: Celebrity and looked at the top 20 earners from Forbes’ list, as well the top earners in a few key categories: media personalities, musicians, actors and actresses, and athletes. In order to determine overall value, we compared positive traits like talent, respect, intelligence, business savvy, overall brand and also negative ones like most overpaid and least respected. The end result, was a reshuffling of each category.

Like what you see?

To get insights like this, choose a template and create your own survey today.

Get Template

In terms of the top 20 earners, when reranked according to our measures of value, a new list emerged—dethroning Forbes’ top earner Taylor Swift, and elevating Ellen DeGeneres into the top spot of celebrity that Americans value most. Ellen was named to be the most business-savvy and most respected. Additionally, she’s perceived to make the biggest contributions to society and she’s the person Americans would most like to trade lives with for a day.

However, this talkshow host goodwill doesn’t extend to Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Phil McGraw—both of whom are mentioned within the top 3 celebrities that Americans think are most overpaid and respected the least.

Though Ellen and Taylor were neck and neck in many categories, the singer still makes top marks for attractiveness, best overall brand, and social media presence.

How musicians perform

Interestingly enough, when compared to her musician peers, Taylor again falls to second place in favor of Sir Paul McCartney. Among musicians, Sir Paul bests the competition in an exhausting number of categories: IQ, business savvy, respect, talent, and likelihood of being remembered in 100 years. The most vilified musician? Enfant terrible Justin Bieber was named least respected and most overpaid.

The spotlight on actors and actresses

In one of the most dramatic shifts in position, Brad Pitt (who ranked 94th in Forbes’ list with a meager $31.5M in pay) placed first in overall value among actors and actresses. Although respondents said both Jennifer Lawrence and Sofia Vergara were more attractive than Brad, when filtered for gender, he wins the category among women (men still prefer Jennifer). Besides their considerable earnings, this hasn’t been a great year for Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, or Ben Affleck: all were voted into top 3 for most overpaid and least respected.

Leveling the playing field with athletes

And the category with perhaps the most scandal-prone celebrities (but not a single woman): athletes. Although both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s earnings put them in Forbes’ top 10 list, Eli Manning takes home the gold as the most overall valued athlete. Interestingly, while his NFL quarterback colleague Tom Brady gets high marks in a number of categories like attractiveness, brand, talent, and social media presence. However, his overall score takes a hit due to his second place spot on the least respected list.

Love em’ or hate ‘em, these celebrities comprise some of the hardest-working people on the planet. They’ve dutifully honed their skills, built their brands, and are reaping the financial rewards. Yes, in many people’s eyes, the celebrity with the most dollars aren’t necessarily the most valued. And according to our data, Americans believe a certain few are deserving of their success. And some…well, just aren’t.

See how your favorite celebrity fares in SurveyMonkey Measures: Celebrity, a comprehensive list analyzing the qualities—both positive and negative—that are attributed to celebrity success.