Poll Shows Oscar Battle Tight

Frodo Baggins inches past John Forbes Nash Jr. in public preference for the Best Picture Oscar — but as any mathematician will tell you, it's within the margin of error.

While The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring trounced its fellow nominees at the box office, it's locked in a tight race with A Beautiful Mind as the public's favorite flick. Thirty percent say Rings should get the Oscar; 28 percent, Mind.

The musical Moulin Rouge places a distant third with 12 percent.

Moulin Rouge, In the Bedroom and Gosford Park could chalk up their low standings to relative unfamiliarity. Rouge grossed $57 million as of last weekend; Bedroom and Gosford, less than $40 million each. A Beautiful Mind, in contrast, grossed about $150 million, while Rings had pulled in $294 million, and counting.

Of course, it's academy members, not the American public, who will pick the winner — and their preferences are not always in sync. Public favorites in previous ABCNEWS polls included Erin Brockovich last year and The Green Mile in 2000. Neither ended up bringing home the Best Picture Oscar.

Rings, adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic, is boosted in large part by younger Americans, who place it well ahead of the other four contenders: Thirty-nine percent of those ages 18-34 choose Rings as their top choice.

Mind, based on the true story of a mathematician's battle with schizophrenia, wins just 22 percent of the vote from younger adults, but rebounds to a dead heat among Americans age 35 and over, and wins among those over age 65.

The Oscars air Sunday night, March 24, on ABC.

This survey was conducted by telephone March 13-17 among a random national sample of 1,021 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

Previous ABCNEWS polls can be found in our Poll Vault.