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Michelle Obama Ends Hillary Clinton's Run as Most Admired

Michelle Obama Ends Hillary Clinton's Run as Most Admired

Story Highlights

  • Michelle Obama Most Admired Woman for the first time
  • Barack Obama Most Admired Man for 11th year in a row
  • Queen Elizabeth finishes among top 10 women for 50th time

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time in 17 years, a woman other than Hillary Clinton has been named by Americans as the woman they admire most. Former first lady Michelle Obama, who finished second to Clinton three times and is currently touring to promote her recently released autobiography, won by a significant margin this year. Oprah Winfrey was second, with Clinton and Melania Trump next.

Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama was the winner among men for the 11th consecutive year, including one year as president-elect, eight as president and two as former president. President Donald Trump ranks second for the fourth year in a row.

Most Admired Man and Woman, 2018
Percent mentioning
Most Admired Woman
Michelle Obama 15
Oprah Winfrey 5
Hillary Clinton 4
Melania Trump 4
Queen Elizabeth 2
Angela Merkel 2
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2
Ellen DeGeneres 2
Nikki Haley 1
Malala Yousafzai 1
Nancy Pelosi 1
Most Admired Man
Barack Obama 19
Donald Trump 13
George W. Bush 2
Pope Francis 2
Bill Gates 1
Bernie Sanders 1
Bill Clinton 1
Dalai Lama 1
Joe Biden 1
Elon Musk 1
Mike Pence 1
Note: Combined first and second mentions; rankings are based on total number of responses
Gallup, Dec. 3-12, 2018

Gallup's annual survey, conducted Dec. 3-12 this year, asks Americans, in an open-ended question, to name the man and woman living anywhere in the world today whom they admire most. Gallup first asked the question in 1946 and has done so every year since, except 1976.

Also among the top 10 most admired women this year is Queen Elizabeth, who placed in the top 10 for a record 50th time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi are the other top 10 finishers this year.

Like the queen of England, Winfrey and Clinton have long histories finishing among the top 10 women, with Winfrey appearing for the 31st time and Clinton for the 27th. Winfrey has never finished first, but has been second on 14 occasions. Clinton has finished first 22 times -- more than any other man or woman -- including in 1993 and 1994, 1997 through 2000, and 2002 through 2017. Clinton has finished second on three occasions, third once (this year) and fourth once (in 1992).

Barack Obama Closing in on Record Number of First-Place Finishes for Men

Barack Obama is now just one first-place finish short of tying Dwight Eisenhower for the most times being Most Admired Man. Eisenhower won the distinction 12 times -- the eight years he was president from 1953 through 1960, as well as in 1950, 1952, 1967 and 1968.

This year marks only the 13th time in 72 measurements the incumbent president did not win. Usually, the president does not win when he has subpar job approval ratings, as is the case with Trump. Trump and Gerald Ford are the two presidents to date who did not win the honor while in office. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger finished first in 1974 and 1975 after Ford replaced Richard Nixon as president, and the question was not asked in Ford's final year in office in 1976.

The remainder of the top 10 most admired men this year includes former President George W. Bush, Pope Francis, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former President Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Vice President Mike Pence.

The top 10 list this year is notable for the absence of two men who often ranked high but who passed away in 2018, Sen. John McCain and the Rev. Billy Graham. McCain finished in the top 10 six times, while Graham had more top 10 finishes than any man or woman, a record 61 times. Graham was in the top 10 every year from 1955 through 2017, with the exception of 1962. Graham never finished first, but he was second eight times, most recently in 1999.

Ronald Reagan has the second most top 10 finishes behind Graham, with 31, followed by Jimmy Carter (28), Pope John Paul II (27) and Bill Clinton, whose appearance this year is his 26th. Clinton did not finish among the top 10 in 2017, but did so every year between 1992 and 2016.

Republicans, Democrats Diverge in Choice of Most Admired Man

Democrats and Republicans had dominant favorites for Most Admired Man, with 35% of Democrats naming Obama and 32% of Republicans naming Trump. Independents were slightly more likely to name Obama (13%) than Trump (10%), while Republicans more often mentioned Obama (7%) than Democrats did Trump (1%).

Michelle Obama was Democrats' favorite for Most Admired Woman, with 28% naming her, compared with 7% for Winfrey and 7% for Clinton. Obama also won by a significant margin among independents. Melania Trump was the top finisher among Republicans, at 9%, with Obama and Winfrey getting 5% each.

Most Admired Man and Woman, by Political Party
Democrats Independents Republicans
% % %
Most Admired Man
Barack Obama 35 13 7
Donald Trump 1 10 32
George W. Bush 1 1 4
Pope Francis 1 3 1
Most Admired Woman
Michelle Obama 28 12 5
Oprah Winfrey 7 3 5
Hillary Clinton 7 3 *
Melania Trump 1 2 9
Note: Combined first and second mentions; *Less than 0.5%
Gallup, Dec. 3-12, 2018

Bottom Line

The year 2018 brought about a change at the top of Gallup's Most Admired Woman list for the first time in 17 years, with Hillary Clinton falling back now that she has more fully retreated to private life after a long career as first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state and two-time presidential candidate. Michelle Obama stepped into that void as she has authored a best-selling autobiography and is promoting it with a major tour of large U.S. arenas.

Former president Barack Obama continues to win as Most Admired Man and is poised to tie Eisenhower for the most No. 1 finishes among men if he earns the title in 2019. Meanwhile, Trump likely has at least two more chances to finish first while president and avoid becoming just the second president never to have gotten the distinction. His doing so depends on having decent job approval ratings and the lack of a credible Democratic figure to vie with him for the honor, neither of which has been the case during Trump's first two years in office.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

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