Richard Branson beats Jesus in British role model poll

LONDON Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:17pm EST

Virgin Group Chairman, Richard Branson listens to a question during a news conference as part of the UN General Assembly debate about climate change at U.N. Headquarters in New York, February 11, 2008. REUTERS/Chip East

Virgin Group Chairman, Richard Branson listens to a question during a news conference as part of the UN General Assembly debate about climate change at U.N. Headquarters in New York, February 11, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - He's a multi-millionaire maverick entrepreneur, part-time daredevil and now Britain's Richard Branson has beaten Jesus Christ in a survey to find the top role model for children.

The Virgin Group boss has been placed second in a poll of Britons asked who their children should look up to. Jesus came in third and a family member topped the list.

Teachers, placed fourth, were more popular than former South African president and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela who came in fifth in the survey carried out by Opinium Research.

Surprisingly no sports stars, such as footballer David Beckham, made it into the top 10.

Diana, Princess of Wales was placed sixth and celebrity chef and healthy eating campaigner, Jamie Oliver came in number seven.

"Despite our obsession with celebrities and footballers it would seem they do not make the cut when it comes to top role models, with go-getters such as Branson and Jamie Oliver being the exception," said Mark Hodson, Head of Research at Opinium.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was ranked eighth, American civil rights hero Martin Luther King ninth and Microsoft founder Bill Gates came 10th.

More than one in 10 people (12 percent) chose the Virgin Group boss as the ideal role model for youngsters, and he was more popular with men than women.

Jesus lost out among younger people, with nearly double those over 55 years choosing him than those aged between 18-34.

Branson's Virgin empire encompasses planes, trains, automobiles, space travel, mobile phones and personal finance.

The bearded hippie-made-good was knighted in 2000 for services to entrepreneurship.

Brits either love or hate Branson. In 2002 he was ranked 85 in a BBC poll to find the top 100 British heroes, but a year later came 86th in Channel Four television's 100 Worst Britons.

Branson was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Georgina Cooper, editing by Paul Casciato)

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