President Obama Still the Most Admired Man in America, Well Ahead of Trump

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President Obama speaking on Climate Change at Georgetown

By Glynn Wilson –

As President Barack Obama prepares to exit the national stage in January after eight years in the White House, he will leave office as the most admired man in America, even if as the first African-American president his tenure has been controversial to those on the political right.

In the latest Gallup poll on the subject, citizens of the United States were asked the open ended question: What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?

President Obama was named by 22 percent, but president-elect Donald J. Trump came in second with 15 percent.

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President-elect Donald J. Trump returns to Mobile, Alabama, in last stop on ‘victory tour.’: Glynn Wilson

Mr. Obama has held this distinction for the past nine years, hitting 30 percent in the most admired man category in 2012 and 2009.

“Incumbent presidents typically win the distinction,” Gallup says in its analysis. “In the 70 times Gallup has asked the question, the president has won 58 times.”

There have been exceptions, when the sitting president was highly unpopular, such as President George W. Bush in 2008.

Republican president Dwight Eisenhower received the most admired man status for 12 years, more than any other man in history, but Mr. Obama now stands as the second most popular man in modern polling history.

Of course the distinction is divided along party lines, with 50 percent of Democrats naming Mr. Obama as the most admired and 34 percent of Republicans picking Trump.

The others on the list include Pope Francis, who came in second with 4 percent of responses, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who came in fourth with 2 percent. The Rev. Billy Graham made the list again for the 60th time, but with only 1 percent of responses, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Dalai Lama, former President Bill Clinton, businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Pence is the only newcomer on the list this year. Trump has finished in the top 10 five times before, in 1988, 1989, 1990, 2011 and 2015.

Bill Clinton made the top 10 for a 25th time and Bill Gates for a 17th. Former President George W. Bush finished outside the top 10 for the first time since he was elected in 2000.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In the most admired woman category, as controversial as she is, Hillary Clinton was still named the most admired woman by Americans for the 15th consecutive year, this past year receiving 12 percent of responses. Since initially topping the list in 1993 as first lady, Ms. Clinton has topped the list every year except 1995 and 1996 (when she finished behind Mother Teresa) and 2001 (behind Laura Bush). Eleanor Roosevelt has the second-most No. 1 finishes among women with 13.

First lady Michelle Obama finished second on the most admired woman list this year, receiving 8 percent of the responses. The other top 10 most admired women include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former and current talk-show hosts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, Queen Elizabeth of England, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Ms. Clinton was the top choice among Democrats, with 26 percent naming her, followed by Michelle Obama at 18 percent. Republicans did not have a consensus choice: 5 percent named Queen Elizabeth, 4 percent each named Clinton and DeGeneres, and 3 percent each named Rice and Palin.

Gallup’s Implications

“Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been the most admired man and woman every year since 2008,” Gallup says. “Now, as both move into the post-political phase of their careers, their future status as most admired is uncertain.”

Given the prominence of incumbent presidents as the most admired man, Gallup says, Trump could be the favorite to win the distinction next year, “provided he does not have low job approval ratings in December 2017.”

“Even if Obama does not win the honor next year, his relative youth and high favorable ratings could make him a fixture in the top 10 for years,” Gallup says. “Many ex-presidents have enjoyed long runs on the most admired man list after leaving office.”

Clinton may have a better chance of staying most admired woman based on history.

“Former first ladies have won the title more than any other role — 35 times in the 67 years the question has been asked,” Gallup says. “Most of those wins are for Roosevelt and Clinton, but Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy and Betty Ford also won after their husband’s term ended. “

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 7-11, 2016, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60 percent cellphone respondents and 40 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

© 2016 – 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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