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Nerds of a feather: TV sci-fi fans live up to their reputation

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2012 – June 2013 (n = 19,003).
The recent announcement that Scottish actor Peter Capaldi would be the new star of long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who was met with excitement by media and fans around the world. In tribute to this legendary show (and others like it), Roy Morgan Research ponders the question: are people who watch science fiction on TV really as nerdy as cliché would have us believe?

If a nerd is someone with strong academic or technological leanings, well then yes — they are. For starters, sci-fi viewers are 20% more likely than the average Australian to have a university degree. They’re 18% more likely to identify as intellectual, and 19% more likely to have read a non-fiction book in the last three months.

They also rate consistently highly in terms of techie know-how. Not only are viewers of sci-fi shows more likely to be Technology Early Adopters than the average Aussie, they’re likelier to own gadgets such as e-readers and MP3 players, and to play computer games at home.

(Curiously, they’re not so interested in mobile phones: for example, only 21.1% agree with the statement ‘I can’t live without a mobile phone’ – well below the national average of 30.7%).

Sci-fi viewers: how they compare to the average Australian


This chart shows the index of the target profile group compared to the population average, with 100 being the average. Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2012 – June 2013 (n = 19,003).

Geek chic

But there’s more to the popular stereotype of the nerdy sci-fi fan than just the super-brain angle.

From The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper to obsessive Trekkies stalking William Shatner at Star Trek conventions, another key trait is a large dose of social awkwardness. Clichéd though that may be, it’s interesting to note that almost half (49.7%) of sci-fi viewers report that ‘I’m shy in social situations’ — 13% higher than the national average — and only 22.8% consider themselves ‘more extrovert than introvert’ (17% below average).

And then there’s ‘geek chic’. Ask any hipster: this fashion look based on horn-rimmed glasses and ‘ironically’ frumpy clothes is cool. Even more ironic? The fact that most sci-fi viewers aren’t interested in fashion: they’re 34% less likely than the average Australian to believe ‘it’s important to look fashionable’ and 31% less likely to ‘wear clothes that will get me noticed.’

George Pesutto, Industry Director — Media, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Though viewers of TV sci-fi shows like Dr Who and Star Trek comprise just 4.6% of the population, this probably makes them easier to pinpoint than the much larger, more diverse portions of the population who watch TV dramas (48.6%) or reality programs (44.2%).

“It’s well known that many clichés originated in fact, and we were interested to find that the profile of the typical sci-fi viewer bears striking similarities to the popular stereotype. These days, however, being a sci-fi nerd is no longer considered uncool: witness the media flurry about Peter Capaldi and the popularity of geek-comedy The Big Bang Theory — Australia’s most-loved TV show, no less.

“After all, in these days of ever-changing and often confusing technology, being brainy is a major advantage. And with the rise of social media, even the shyest individual can socialise with ease.”

Click here to view our extensive range of Media Profiles, including TV and Pay TV, or our Telecommunication and Technology Profiles, including Technology Adoption Segments and Technology Attitudes. These profiles provide a broad understanding of the target audience, in terms of demographics, attitudes, activities and media usage in Australia.

For comments or more information please contact:

George Pesutto

Industry Director — Media

Office: +61 (3) 9224 5206

Mobile: +61 414 686 987

About Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices in each state of Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan Research has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

In Australia, Roy Morgan Research is considered to be the authoritative source of information on financial behaviour, readership, voting intentions and consumer confidence. Roy Morgan Research is a specialist in recontact customised surveys which provide invaluable and effective qualitative and quantitative information regarding customers and target markets.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%