Many respondents said Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, was one of their most influential role models. Picture: AP

London - Feminist is the most common word young girls use to describe themselves – and many see campaigning actress Emma Watson as their inspiration, a study suggests.

A survey found almost a third call themselves a feminist, compared with a tenth who identify as sporty and a fifth who say they are a book worm.

Many respondents said Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, was one of their most influential role models, telling researchers they admired her for "using her fame" to tackle sexual discrimination.

Watson, 27, recently took a break from acting during which she studied feminist literature and spoke out for HeForShe, a solidarity campaign started by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. She said in February that her work as a feminist was "exhausting", but that the resulting criticism had "toughened" her up.

The survey of 1 000 teenagers was conducted by ICM for the National Citizen Service, which runs activity programmes for teenagers. When girls were asked which term most identified them, the most votes went to "feminist" – over others such as "environmentalist" or "intellectual". Large proportions also said they looked up to celebrities if they spoke out about social issues and encouraged them to be themselves.

When asked which celebrity most influences and inspires them, boys and girls both chose Emma Watson.

One said: "She uses the power and fame she gained from the Harry Potter series to speak about important issues like feminism." Another said: "She frequently speaks out on sexism and other discrimination issues such as racism and homophobia, and what she says really inspires me."

Only five percent of teenage boys identified as feminists, instead choosing labels such as "gamer", which was most popular with 39 percent of votes.