By Mary Milliken
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If ordinary Americans voted for the Academy Awards, "American Sniper," Clint Eastwood's portrait of a sharpshooter in the Iraq war, would be the best picture winner, according to the annual Reuters/Ipsos Oscars poll.
The film starring Bradley Cooper as the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was cited by 22 percent of respondents as the movie that should win the top Oscar among the eight nominees, according to an online survey of Americans conducted Jan. 16-23.
The Martin Luther King Jr. biopic "Selma" was the second most popular choice with 8 percent.
"Boyhood," the coming-of-age story filmed over 12 years with the same actors and a favorite to win best picture, was third in the survey with 4 percent.
Nearly half, or 48 percent, said they were unsure which film should win best picture.
Both "American Sniper" and "Selma" have been the subject of controversy in recent weeks.
The Eastwood-directed film, currently No. 1 at the North American box office, has become a flashpoint of debate between liberals and conservatives over the morality of war and the role of snipers.
"Selma" drew criticism from some historians for what they said was a misleading portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson's role in the fight for voting rights for blacks.
"Selma" was also at the center of the upheaval over the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations announced last week, which excluded the film's African-American female director and lead actor.
The survey revealed, however, that many people have not seen the year's top films and Oscar contenders.
The film seen most by those surveyed was "Gone Girl," the film adaptation of the best-selling thriller that did not receive a best picture nomination. Twelve percent have seen that film.
"American Sniper" and musical "Into the Woods," were the second most seen at 9 percent each.
The two films that lead all Academy Awards nominees with nine nods a piece, the whimsical caper "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and the dark satire "Birdman," have been seen by 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
A full 65 percent of respondents had not seen any of the 15 films cited in the survey.
The Oscars, to be presented at a ceremony on Feb. 22, will be voted on by the 6,100 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll surveyed 2,385 Americans online and has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Andrew Hay)