LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bradley Cooper's turn as America's most lethal military sniper and Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of a woman on a journey of self-discovery should win this year's top acting Oscars, in the view of Americans surveyed in the annual Reuters/Ipsos Oscars poll.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents said Cooper, a four-time Academy Award nominee, should win best actor for his depiction of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, in the Clint Eastwood-directed "American Sniper," based on the late Kyle's autobiography. That was more than the percentage of respondents who saw the movie.
Cooper, 40, is also a producer on the Iraq war film that has become a huge commercial success, while stirring up a heated national debate about the role of snipers, the accuracy of Kyle's accounts and Americans' views of the war.
The second most favored for best actor is Michael Keaton for his portrayal of a washed-up actor attempting a comeback in "Birdman." Twelve percent of respondents picked him in the online survey of Americans conducted Feb. 9-12.
Frontrunner Eddie Redmayne, the British actor who has picked up numerous awards this season for his role as physicist Stephen Hawking, was the first choice for 5 percent of respondents, 46 percent of whom said they were unsure who should win.
In the best actress category, 13 percent chose Oscar-winner Witherspoon for her lead role in "Wild," author Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir of overcoming heartbreak on a solo trek along the grueling Pacific Coast Trail.
In second place with 12 percent is Rosamund Pike for her turn as the young wife with a dark side in "Gone Girl," director David Fincher's film based on the best-selling thriller.
Nearly 60 percent, however, said they were unsure who should win best actress.
The poll previously revealed that "American Sniper" was the overwhelming favorite to win best picture, with 26 percent of respondents behind it. It is also the film seen most by respondents, with 22 percent to 18 percent for "Gone Girl."
The Academy Awards will be handed out on Feb. 22 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose 6,100 members will complete voting on Feb. 17.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll surveyed 948 Americans online and has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
(Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Eric Kelsey and David Gregorio)