But that’s not the news. Mr. Obama has topped the men’s list every year since 2008 – as have American presidents most years since Gallup began polling “most admired man” in 1946. Mrs. Clinton won “most admired woman” for the 12th straight year and 22nd time overall.
What’s new is that their numbers took a dive. Obama went from 30 percent last year to 16 percent this year, in the open-ended survey of 1,031 Americans; Clinton fell from 21 percent to 15 percent.
Obama’s slide is easy to explain: From the Obamacare fiasco and general Washington dysfunction to Edward Snowden’s leaks on government snooping, the president had an annus horribilis. Clinton’s slide might be attributed to the fact that she kind of took the year off, having retired as secretary of State and declined to engage in others’ efforts to prepare the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign.
More interesting to us were the other names on the list. Let’s start with the men who got 1 percent each: Microsoft founder Bill Gates; actor Clint Eastwood; retired Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas; Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas; 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney; and former President Jimmy Carter.
Most are from the world of politics – including Mr. Eastwood, whose prime time conversation with the empty chair at the 2012 Republican National Convention is still buzzworthy. We’re going to assume that if Mr. Romney sees the list (and cares), he won’t be happy that he and Eastwood get equal billing.
Senator Cruz is the only prospective 2016 presidential candidate on the men’s list, which probably says more about the fervency of his supporters than his chances of winning the nomination. But it’s also interesting that one of his likely rivals, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, didn’t make the list – while his father did.
Tied for second on the men’s list, with 4 percent each, are former President George W. Bush and Pope Francis. For President Bush, that 4 percent is double what he got last year. Perhaps this hints at a comeback in public estimation, having left office with dismal job approvals? Regarding the Pope, we’re going to guess that his 4 percent is only the beginning, given the splash he has made in just nine months on the job.
Rounding out the men’s list, with 2 percent each, are former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Billy Graham. The elderly Mr. Graham tops the all-time list of top 10 mentions for Gallup’s most admired man – 57 times, far more than anyone else.
Also of note: Former South African President Nelson Mandela was chosen by 7 percent of those surveyed, but he is no longer qualified to make the list, which only ranks people who are still alive. Mr. Mandela died the day polling began, Dec. 5.
On the women’s list, entertainer Oprah Winfrey eked out a second-place showing with 6 percent, just ahead of first lady Michelle Obama, who got 5 percent. Four of the top six women are minorities: Ms. Winfrey, Mrs. Obama, Pakistani teen education advocate Malala Yousafzai (2 percent), and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2 percent). Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) came in fourth with 5 percent.
The final four women each polled at 1 percent: German Chancellor Angela Merkel; actress Angelina Jolie; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; and Queen Elizabeth II. We’re thinking that Duchess Kate gets points for giving birth to a future king, and a cute one at that, though she made the list last year, also with 1 percent. And her grandmother-in-law reigns supreme at the top of the all-time list of top 10 finishes for most admired women, with 46 appearances.
Looking ahead to 2014, we see at least two women who could break into the top 10: Janet Yellen, set to become chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, a liberal firebrand with a fan base eager for her to run for president in 2016 (despite her protestations).
Among the men, that bottom scrum of 1-percenters could see some new faces. Maybe Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey and a 2016 prospect? How about Vice President Joe Biden? Maybe Senator Paul will replace his father on the list? Check back in a year.