By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Gallup today released its list of the men and women Americans most frequently name as "most admired." There are the usual suspects: Barack Obama is the most admired man (the president virtually always is--George W. Bush was, even while his approval ratings plummeted) and Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman (for the 14th time in the last 17 years). Secretary Clinton did have some tough competition this time, from Alaska governor-turned-author Sarah Palin.
Of course this list is almost invariably an exercise in name recognition. See for example the four-way tie for 10th place among the most admired men, with each scoring 1 percent: Sen. John McCain, former President George H.W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and golfer-turned-scandal star Tiger Woods. Clinton and Woods, tied. Insert joke here. "Ironically," Gallup notes, "Woods--who has some of the highest personal favorability ratings in Gallup polling history--did not finish in the top 10 until this year, following a personal scandal that caused those ratings to plummet."
Lest anyone wish to accuse the American public of taking sides in the Woods family drama, understand that Elin Nordegren Woods is in a four way, 1 percent tie of her own with Margaret Thatcher, Maya Angelou, and Angela Merkel. ("Elin Nordegren Woods, Maggie Thatcher, Maya Angelou, and Angela Merkel walk into a bar...")
Is there anything to be learned from this exercise in polling silliness? A very little bit. With 30 percent of votes cast, Obama is the landslide victor, though down from 32 percent last year ("both totals are among the highest Gallup has measured for a winner," the polling company notes, "with George W. Bush's 39 percent in 2001 remaining the all-time high"). Obama is the big winner among Democrats (54 percent to Nelson Mandela's second place 4 percent) and Independents (25 percent to Glenn Beck's 3 percent), but is only the second most admired man among Republicans, with 7 percent compared to George W. Bush's 11 percent. (Really? Most Republicans I know don't care for either Obama or W.)
Democrats like Nelson Mandela (second behind the big O), Bills (Clinton and Gates) and athletes (Woods and Michael Jordan) while Republicans like religious leaders (Billy Graham and Pope Benedict) and cult-like leaders (Glenn Beck).
For most admired woman, Hillary Clinton edged Palin 16-15, on the strength of broad cross-partisan appeal: She placed first among Democrats (28 percent, as compared to Michelle Obama's 14 percent) and second among Republicans (6 percent, behind Palin's 34 percent), while tying Palin among independents (14 percent). No surprise, "Palin barely registers any mention from Democrats."