PRINCETON, NJ -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her reign as the Most Admired Woman in the eyes of Americans, but barely edges out former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin this year, 16% to 15%. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey and first lady Michelle Obama finish third and fourth, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Queen Elizabeth II, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and poet Maya Angelou -- all regulars on the list -- joined by newcomers German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Elin Woods in the top 10.
Hillary Clinton has now been named Most Admired Woman 14 times since 1993, spanning her career as first lady, New York senator, and now secretary of state. The three times she has not finished first during this time, she earned second place (to Laura Bush in 2001 and to Mother Teresa in 1995 and 1996).
"Since 1948, Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth II have been the two individuals with the most top 10 finishes on the Most Admired Man and Woman lists, with Graham doing so a record 53 times and the British monarch achieving that distinction 42 times."
President Barack Obama is the landslide winner among men for the second time, with 30% of Americans naming him as the Most Admired Man this year. Obama won last year with 32%, and both totals are among the highest Gallup has measured for a winner, with George W. Bush's 39% in 2001 remaining the all-time high for Most Admired Man.
Bush finished second again this year, after winning the honor from 2001-2007. The rest of the top 10 includes former South African President Nelson Mandela, radio and TV personality Glenn Beck, Pope Benedict XVI, the Rev. Billy Graham, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and golfer Tiger Woods. Ironically, 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.
Americans' choices for Most Admired Man and Woman are influenced by their political leanings. Obama easily wins as Most Admired Man among Democrats and independents, but among Republicans George W. Bush ranks first, with Obama placing second.
The choices for Most Admired Woman are polarized by party, with Hillary Clinton the dominant leader among Democrats and Sarah Palin among Republicans. The two receive the same percentage of mentions from independents. Clinton still ranks among the leaders among Republicans, while Palin barely registers any mentions from Democrats.
Graham, Queen Elizabeth II Extend Streaks
Gallup first asked Americans to name, without prompting, which living person they admire most in 1946, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur winning that year. Starting in 1948, Gallup asked separate questions to identify the Most Admired Man and Woman.
Since 1948, Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth II have been the two individuals with the most top 10 finishes on the Most Admired Man and Woman lists, with Graham doing so a record 53 times and the British monarch achieving that distinction 42 times. Their long histories on the most admired lists are a result of their gaining notoriety at a relatively young age and living a long life.
In fact, Graham was first mentioned in the top 10 in 1955, when he was in his thirties. He has finished in the top 10 every year since 1963 (except 1976 when the question was not asked), and all but one year since 1955. Queen Elizabeth II has not been as regular a top 10 finisher as Graham -- appearing five times this decade -- but has a longer history of ranking among the most admired, first appearing in 1948 (as Princess Elizabeth).
In addition to Graham and Queen Elizabeth II, this year George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Nelson Mandela added another top 10 finish as Most Admired Man to their resumes, as did Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton for Most Admired Woman. Thatcher has the longest current streak of top 10 finishes among women at 31, appearing every year since 1979.
The accompanying table shows the number of top 10 finishes for Most Admired Man and Woman historically.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,025 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 11-13, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.