NEW YORK – Lucille Ball (search) is America's most beloved dead star.
The company that developed the "Q score (search)" that broadcasters and advertisers quietly consult to measure a personality's popularity has done a survey that tests the reputation of performers who have gone on to that big soundstage in the sky.
The redheaded sitcom star of the 1950s and '60s, who died in 1989, has topped past "Dead Q" lists as her comedies seemingly live forever on television, said Steve Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations, Inc. (search), which conducts the tests.
"What is there not to like about Lucy?" he said.
For 41 years, Levitt's company has given consumers a list of names and asked if they know the people and to rate how much they like them. From their responses they calculate the Q score, a measure of both familiarity and likability.
Advertising executives use the information to make sponsorship decisions, while broadcasters check Q scores to see how well their news and entertainment stars are connecting.
Tom Hanks has been the most popular live star in the last few surveys.
Dead stars still do business, though. Coors used film clips of Wayne in a popular commercial, while Fred Astaire has danced to hawk a vacuum cleaner.
"Some of these deceased personalities have Q scores equal to or greater than some of the live personalities we measure," Levitt said.
Others offer a reminder of television's power to keep people figuratively alive; "The Honeymooners" star Jackie Gleason, who died in 1987, is still remembered and beloved.
"Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz and Michael Landon fill out the top 10.
Out of 169 personalities tested, diet doctor Robert Atkins had the lowest score. Tupac Shakur and Johnnie Cochran also have high negative ratings, Levitt said.
The national survey was conducted by mail questionnaire.