Topping the list of those rated as positive influences by African Americans in a Pew survey is TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who wins the approval of nearly nine-in-ten (87%) black respondents; in a virtual tie with Winfrey is comedian, actor and author Bill Cosby, who has drawn widespread attention in recent years for his tough message on the need for blacks to work to eliminate crime and social disorder in their community. Like Winfrey, Cosby enjoys near universal recognition; few respondents say they have never heard of either and a tiny 3% declined to rate them. The culturally conservative views reflected in the ratings that blacks give to prominent African American newsmakers are also reflected in black attitudes about rap and hip hop. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.