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Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama Most Admired in 2012

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama Most Admired in 2012

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans again this year name Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama as the Most Admired Woman and Most Admired Man living in any part of the world. Clinton has been the Most Admired Woman each of the last 11 years, and Obama has been the Most Admired Man five years in a row. First lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Condoleezza Rice are next in line behind Clinton on the Most Admired Woman list, while Nelson Mandela, Mitt Romney, Billy Graham, George W. Bush, and Pope Benedict XVI follow Obama as Most Admired Man.

Most Admired Woman, 2012Most Admired Man, 2012

These results are based on a Dec. 19-22 USA Today/Gallup poll. Gallup's "Most Admired" question is open-ended, asking Americans to name, without prompting, the man and the woman they most admire living in any part of the world. Gallup first asked Americans to name their Most Admired Man in 1946, and in 1948 expanded the question to both genders. The question was not asked in 1976, and in 1967 only the Most Admired Man question was asked.

The open-ended nature of the question produces the names of people with high top-of-mind name identification, most often hailing from the world of government and politics; the list also includes individuals who have become famous serving humanitarian causes and others whose fame comes from the business and entertainment worlds.

This year, seven of those on the top 10 Most Admired Man list are from the world of U.S. government and politics: Obama, Romney, the two George Bushes, Bill Clinton, Ron Paul, and John McCain. One is from international politics -- Nelson Mandela -- and three are from religious vocations -- Billy Graham, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Dalai Lama.

Of the top 10 Most Admired women, four have been associated with U.S. government and politics (Clinton, Michelle Obama, Rice, and Sarah Palin), one with the entertainment world (Winfrey), two with international advocacy causes (Malala Yousafzai and Aung San Suu Kyi), one with international government (Margaret Thatcher), and two with royalty (Queen Elizabeth and Kate Middleton).

This year, there were no men on the top 10 list from the world of business, while last year that group included Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, and Bill Gates. Last year's lists for both men and women reflected the then-active Republican primary process and included Newt Gingrich on the men's list and Michele Bachmann on the women's list.

Clinton Most Admired Woman for 17th Time

Hillary Clinton's first-place finish this year further solidifies her position as the most often named Most Admired Woman in Gallup's history -- a total of 17 times going back to her first year as first lady in 1993. Clinton missed being Most Admired in 1995 and 1996 when she finished second to Mother Teresa, and in 2001, when she was second to Laura Bush. Eleanor Roosevelt is second with 13 finishes as Most Admired Woman, followed by Thatcher, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Mother Teresa.


This year marks the fifth time Barack Obama has been in first place on the men's list. Former General and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower was the Most Admired Man 12 times, the most for any man, followed by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton with eight first-place finishes each.


Obama's position as the Most Admired Man is not unusual. Sitting presidents, with their extremely high visibility and essentially continuous presence in ongoing news coverage, have won the Most Admired Man honor 56 times out of the 66 years in which Gallup has asked the question -- including each of the past 32 years in a row.

Presidents failed to be Most Admired in years in which they were in a politically weak state, or in which other men were highly visible in the news. General Douglas MacArthur beat out President Harry Truman in three years: 1946, 1947, and 1951. The 1951 win by MacArthur was noteworthy given that in April 1951 Truman had relieved MacArthur from duty in the Korean War for failing to follow presidential orders.

Another famous general, Eisenhower, also beat then-President Truman as Most Admired Man in 1950, and after retiring from the presidency Eisenhower captured the Most Admired title in 1967 and 1968 while Lyndon Johnson was president and battling severe opposition to his stewardship of the Vietnam War.

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was the Most Admired Man in 1973 while Richard Nixon was president, and also in 1974 and 1975 under the presidency of Gerald Ford. Nixon was weakened by the Watergate Scandal. Ford was Nixon's non-elected successor after Nixon was forced to resign. Pope John Paul II was the Most Admired Man in 1980 while Jimmy Carter was president.

Graham Expands Record as Being in Top 10 Most Often

The Rev. Billy Graham, now 94 years of age and living in poor health in North Carolina, has been on the top 10 Most Admired list 56 times since 1955, more than any other man -- although he has never been in first place.

Ronald Reagan appeared on the top 10 list 31 times before his death in 2004. Pope John Paul II, Carter, Eisenhower, Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Truman have each had 20 or more appearances.


Queen Elizabeth II of England makes her 45th top 10 appearance this year, significantly more than any other woman in the history of the list. She first appeared on the list in 1948 while she was still a princess. Former British Prime Minister Thatcher has been on the list 34 times, second only to the queen. Jacqueline Kennedy, Winfrey, Mamie Eisenhower, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush, and Margaret Chase Smith are next in line in terms of their appearances in the top 10.


Gallup's Most Admired question is based on Americans' selection of men and women living anywhere in the world, which reduces the presence on the list of individuals whose death came relatively early in their careers, or whose rise to prominence came relatively late in their lives. President John F. Kennedy, for example, first appeared on the list in 1960, and was the Most Admired Man in 1961 and 1962 before his death in 1963. Mother Teresa didn't appear on the list until 1979 but then appeared continuously through 1996, the year before her death in 1997.

Review Gallup's Most Admired trend dating back to 1946.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 19-22, 2012, with a random sample of 1,038 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, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cellphone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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