The pollsters at Gallup have been asking Americans who they admire most since 1946, when they chose General Douglas MacArthur as their Most Admired Person. He was one of just 4 men who have outpolled the sitting president. He did it twice. Henry Kissinger did it three times. Pope John Paul II won in 1980.
Perhaps it’s no shock that Barack Obama was voted Top Dude for the seventh year in a row, though his winning percentage has fallen off dramatically from 32% in 2008 to just 19% in 2014. Pope Francis ran a distant second and the list does contain an odd mix from Stephen Hawking to Bill O’Reilly.
There were some serious shocks on the last year’s list. Author and renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson ranked sixth, perhaps boding well for his expected run for the Republican Presidential nomination. His predecessor, Mitt Romney didn’t make the cut, which bodes ill for any reprise of his unsuccessful campaign in 2012. And the one who ended up ranked as the 10th Most Admired man is also one of the Most Hated.
And so we begin with America’s 10th most-admired man, the homophobic invader of other sovereign nations and the world’s geopolitical bad boy:
10. Vladimir Putin
Could the KGB have rigged the ballot? Or did the people polled think he wrote War and Peace? In the last year, Putin threw a pretty good Olympic Games party at a cost of $50 billion – much of which is sloshing around in his cronies’ bloated bank accounts. He will be eternally known for the brutal invasion of Ukraine and the annexing of some of its territory. Or do Americans secretly admire his macho, strongman image?
Another poll puts his U.S. approval rating in Ebola territory at 4%. Gallup provides a list of names for people to choose from so this may be just a case of a woefully uninformed public going with name recognition. Come to think of it, isn’t that why incumbents almost always win? Remember that Tiger Woods made the Top Ten even after his wife found out about his sexual escapades and used him as target practice.
9. Benjamin Netanyahu
It must be such a relief to look up the list and find out you’re just ahead of, and not behind, Vladimir Putin.
It seems the favorite hobby of America’s 9th most admired man is thumbing his nose to the President of the United States and defying American omnipotent exceptionalism, which is not something that usually attracts the admiration of the American people. Yet, Benjamin Netanyahu is still more admired than George Clooney. And Mitt Romney.
8. Bill O’Reilly
The fire-breathing, Emmy-Award winning journalist makes the list for just the second time since 2009, and is the third volcanic curmudgeon in a row on this so far inglorious list.
His forceful advocacy of his very conservative agenda apparently outweighs his scathing prima donna on-air temper tantrum which remains a YouTube classic. He once observed that having so many enemies is the price he pays for being such a loudmouth. Still more admired than Prince William. And of course, Mitt Romney.
7. Bill Gates
The 805 people polled apparently decided it was time to put one of the nice-guy do-gooders on the list. The philanthropist, author, inventor co-founder of Microsoft is one of the world’s wealthiest people with a net worth larger than the GNP of several members of the United Nations.
More than a few critics have accused Bill Gates of predatory business practices; accusations which have occasionally been upheld by the courts. He is more known for his generous Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, donating almost $30 billion to various causes. He also advocates for more wealthy people to donate substantial portions of their fortunes to philanthropy. He’s more admired than another notable American entrepreneur, Donald Trump.
6. Stephen Hawking
A truly great man who has achieved more than most mere mortals despite being stricken with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Honestly, what man alive on this planet is more worthy of admiration whether or not you understand black holes and relativity? Honestly if you could change your vote people, wouldn’t you want him higher than 6? At least higher than Ben Carson. And who exactly is Ben Carson you ask?
5. Ben Carson
Ben Carson is quite a guy. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, he specialized in traumatic brain injuries, tumors, and neurological and congenital disorders. He pioneered the delicate surgery to separate twins conjoined at the head.
A winner of the Presidential Medal of Honor, his book ‘One Nation’ topped the New York Times bestseller list for twenty weeks and outsold Hillary Clinton’s memoir. A rising star in the Republican Party, he joined in 2014 and has also formed a Political Action Committee – almost always a sign of an intent to run for a Presidential nomination. Carson is currently more admired in American than musician and philanthropist, Bono.
4(tie).George W. Bush
The polarizing 43rd President is a love him or hate him figure. A CNN poll found 90% of Democrats consider his Presidency a failure while 80% of Republicans consider it a success. A research institute rated his Presidency the 5th worst in U.S. history, but apparently the flattering light of the Oval Office overpowers a multitude of perceived sins.
Good or bad, his has also been rated one of the most ‘consequential’ Presidencies in history. The number of people who still admire George Bush has fallen by half from 2013. Still, he’s more admired than Joe Biden.
4. (tie). Billy Graham
The world record holder for being on the list for the 58th consecutive year. That’s as many times as Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II combined. His website says the 96-year-old evangelist has preached the Gospel to nearly 215 million people in 185 countries and territories, and his ministry continues online and around the world through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He is widely considered to be the most influential evangelist of the last century.
3. Bill Clinton
Speaking of polarizing figures, the male side of America’s ultimate power couple remains a hugely popular figure. The Clinton brand may be about to get even stronger if Hillary, as is widely expected, runs for the Democratic nomination. It is hard to imagine that Slick Willie is pushing 70. He has been extremely active as a party elder and in humanitarian, philanthropic and diplomatic missions. He is the Democrat’s George W. Bush, the President his opponents love to hate. Still more popular than Jimmy Carter.
The Holy Father has jumped significantly in popularity in 2014, and he’s now three times more admired than the highest ranking of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. A study by the Pew Research Center shows that 78% of Americans have a favourable view of Francis. Time magazine named him Pope Francis the Popular.
He’s more admired than Clint Eastwood, although this poll was taken before ‘The Sniper’ opened so Clint may be a sleeper pick for this year.
1. Barack Obama
Obama’s popularity rebounded from his lowest point in 2013. The incumbent president has placed first in all but 12 of the 68 years the question has been asked. So obviously if you want to be the Most Admired Man in the country, all you have to do is be elected President.
More importantly and interestingly, despite the cynicism about politics and polls showing abjectly low regard for politicians, Americans still respect and salute the institution of the Oval Office. And for the third time since the 2012 election, Obama is more popular than Mitt Romney.