How Race and Age Impact How Harry and Meghan Are Viewed 

How Race and Age Impact How Harry and Meghan Are Viewed 
Illustration: VIP+; Getty Images

It’s been quite the last few months for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

First, their “Harry & Meghan” documentary series on Netflix debuted in December, setting records on the streamer for the most watched documentary debut

Then Prince Harry embarked on a media blitz on both sides of the Atlantic in the lead-in to the release of his tell-all book, “Spare,” which saw 11.2 million watch Anderson Cooper’s interview with Harry on “60 Minutes,” the venerable series’ most watched episode of the 2022-23 season. 

The appetite for content based on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shows no sign of abating. But often overlooked by many in the media is why that is. There’s more to it than wanting the latest installment of royal gossip or to see the walls peeled back even further regarding behind the scenes at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.  

In order to quantify this, VIP+ commissioned an exclusive poll that ran on Jan. 6 (before the “60 Minutes” interview aired) to 1,511 U.S. adults aged 18 or over. What’s clear from the data is that Harry and Meghan resonate differently with Black and young adult respondents than they do with white and older ones.  

This is reflected in the current opinion of the couple. While there is not that much difference between Black and white Americans in terms of favorable opinions of the two (28% and 23%, respectively), there is a much greater level of unfavorability among white adults, with 38% saying so versus just 8% of Black adults. 

The 18-34s are more than twice as likely to be in their favor (36%) than not (15%); the inverse holds true among those 55 or older (19% positive versus 34% negative). Younger Americans are the only age group to have a net positive opinion of Harry and Meghan. 

Those who watched Netflix's “Harry & Meghan” typically saw an increase in favorability regarding the pair, with over half (54%) saying their opinion was now more positive. Under 1 in 10 viewers said they had a less favorable view of the Sussexes than before — rising to around 1 in 5 older viewers — with two-thirds of younger viewers reporting their opinions had been positively impacted. 

Bringing stories of unconscious bias and the challenges the Duchess of Sussex faced while integrating with the British Royal Family into the public eye has resulted in an increase in awareness of the challenges facing Black women. Almost one in three (28%) U.S. adults say their awareness has grown, with close to half (45%) of 18-34s reporting this, as well as just over half of Black Americans (in contrast to a quarter of white Americans).  

The social impact of Markle’s experiences grows when assessing if this has sparked a conversation about the larger issue of the challenges Black women face. A third of 18-34s said they have had a discussion with someone regarding these challenges, with this declining the older one is. Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to have done so. 

There is a clear relationship between those who hold a positive view on the couple and awareness and engagement with themes based around societal equality, and this is part of why the clamor for content from and about Harry and Meghan continues. To some, they are parroting old stories and just trying for a cash grab. To others, they put a face on the issues that many non-white people confront in society and are helping to put that conversation into the mainstream.

Younger Americans see the story of Harry and Meghan as reflecting a society that is growing more and more mixed. Black Americans see the tale of a mixed-race actress shining a light on issues to which they are sadly accustomed. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are symbols to many, reflected in the high levels VIP+'s poll captured on media relating to them, and are helping to shape a social narrative that should hopefully be a catalyst for change. Some may not approve of the method, but it’s clear many young Americans and minorities do, and it's for that reason we can expect to see more of the Sussexes onscreen in the future.