Most Admired Man and Woman 2010

President Obama and Hillary Clinton top Gallup's lists of Most Admired Americans.

Gallup has released its annual most admired lists and, not surprisingly, President Obama leads the men’s list, garnering 22% of the vote.  As Gallup’s Lydia Saad notes, sitting presidents almost always to the list.  Here’s how the polling has broken down in recent years:

As you can see, Obama’s ratings are down significantly from the previous two years.  But, again, that’s not surprising:  The luster of the Hope and Change campaign has worn off and he’s being judged on his record in office, not against his  predecessor.

It’s interesting to note, too, that his numbers are will behind Bush’s at comparable points in their presidencies.  But, again, not shocking.  Bush had come down from his post-9/11 high but the Iraq War morass and Katrina debacle were yet to come.   Obama’s 22% is almost identical to Bush’s in the year he was re-elected.

What’s more interesting is that Hillary Clinton easily tops the women’s list.  Indeed, despite having been incredibly polarizing during her husband’s tenure in office, she’s been at or near the top of the list for nearly twenty years.

Clinton has dominated the Most Admired Woman title for most of the past two decades, earning 15 No. 1 rankings since her first appearance on the list in 1992. She joins Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as first ladies whose strong popularity has extended well beyond her husband’s presidency, although, given Clinton’s post-White House political career, perhaps for different reasons.

Historically, first ladies have figured prominently on the list, typically appearing in the top three at some point during their White House tenure. However, they are much less likely than presidents to win the top spot. First ladies who have succeeded in placing first include Clinton, with six No. 1 rankings in Bill Clinton’s two terms as president; Nancy Reagan, who achieved it three times in Ronald Reagan’s two terms; Barbara Bush, who achieved it twice in her husband’s single term; and Rosalynn Carter, who tied for or placed first in three years during her husband’s single term. No first lady has won the top overall ranking since Laura Bush in 2001.

Thus far as first lady, Obama, like Laura Bush for most of her husband’s presidency, has not garnered high mentions as Most Admired Woman. Her single-digit performances on the list since Barack Obama took office are on the low side for other first ladies since Carter at this point in their husband’s first term.

My guess is that this is a function of women’s changing role in society rather than the performance of Bush and Obama as First Lady. Indeed, part of the reason Clinton was so controversial in the 1990s was that she was at the crossroads of this change.  Rather than being her husband’s supportive and  silent partner, she was an accomplished professional in her own right and expected to have a role in the policy process. Which, of course, no one elected her to do.

While Eleanor Roosevelt also had a prominent role in  public affairs after her husband’s passing, Clinton was the first First Lady to use the unofficial office as a springboard for a political career of her own — winning election to the Senate while her husband was still in office and going on to nearly win the presidency in her  own right.  Neither Laura Bush nor Michelle Obama are likely to follow suit.

UPDATE: I should point out, in case it isn’t obvious, that these are open format polls where people simply give the first name that pops into  their head.   Obama’s 22% isn’t the totality of those who admire him, just those who say they admire him more than anyone else.  Similarly, that more people named Sarah Palin than Oprah Winfrey isn’t a statement on their comparative admirably; Palin is simply more polarizing.  Indeed, I’d wager that more people admire Winfrey than Clinton, since the former seldom takes positions on hot button issues  that will harm her public support.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jack says:

    I wonder also if Michelle Obama has gotten less exposure in the press than previous first ladies. I don’t recall seeing much of her in the news, not nearly as much as even Laura Bush, much less Hillary Clinton. There’s been so much going on in the war between the GOP and the Democrats that since Ms. Obama hasn’t chosen to get involved in the fray she’s been lost in the noise.

  2. Smooth Jazz says:

    What I find most interesting about this survey, though not covered in your post, is that the universally depised, idiot former Gov of Alaska, Sarah Palin – widely viewed as a moron who belongs in an igloo in Alaska – is #2 on the list of most admired women in the country — ahead of luminaries such as First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and other women viewed as her superior. Don’t you guys find it interesting that the figure most ridiculed on this and other Liberal blogs is so widely admired in the country. I find that ironic and rich!

  3. john personna says:

    Smooth, am I reading it right, that Palin wins with 12% of respondents naming her as their most admired woman?

    Why wouldn’t that fit with “liberal preconceptions?”

    Sure, there are 12% out there who think she’s tops.

  4. john personna says:

    (LOL, maybe with their basic innumeracy that same 12% will think they’ve won some majority!)

  5. Tano says:

    What is most remarkable is the margin by which Obama came out on top (chart not presented in this post). Obama was named by 22% of the people, second place (GW Bush) was down at 5% – Bill Clinton at 4%, and everyone else at 1 or2%.

  6. just me says:

    I wonder also if Michelle Obama has gotten less exposure in the press than previous first ladies. I don’t recall seeing much of her in the news, not nearly as much as even Laura Bush, much less Hillary Clinton.

    I think Hillary has gotten significant amounts of press, but I think Michelle and Laura have been pretty similar. I think one thing different too is that Hillary has long gotten press coverage for more political oriented roles-even as first lady while Michelle and Laura have mostly gotten coverage on what they wore to an event or fluff pieces about the first family. I have seen enough to know Laura’s pet project was literacy and Michelle’s is childhood obesity. Not sure either of those gets the same amount of attention as spearheading the presidents health care commission.

    Also, one other different for Hillary is that Michelle and Laura both seem to have husbands who are faithful while Hillary had to deal with more than one sex scandal over the course of the 1990’s.

  7. sam says:

    Jeepers, Smooth’s palindissometer is pegged.

  8. John425 says:

    Where was this poll taken? At the NYT employees entrance, no doubt.

  9. tom p says:

    >”Rather than being her husband’s supportive and silent partner, she was an accomplished professional in her own right and expected to have a role in the policy process. Which, of course, no one elected her to do.”

    James, that is a low and gratuitous slight. This White House, as were all others preceeding it, is FULL of people who are in the “policy process” and nobody elected them either. I don’t recall you ever complaining that Karl Rove was unelected, or Rumsfeld, or Addington, or Gonzalez, or Axelrod, or Summers, or Geithner, or Gates, or….

    But somehow or other, when ever a conservative brings up HRC’s role in the Clinton White House they feel the need to point out “nobody elected her”, with out noticing the irony of the role she now plays in the “policy process”, and one to which she was NOT elected to…again.

    Yeah, I know, you are going to hang your hat on the fact that she was confirmed by the Senate, but were Axelrod or Rove?

  10. rodney dill says:

    Tano, given John Personna’s logic on Palin’s 12%, its no surprise that Obama ‘wins’ the top with 22%.

  11. Don L says:

    Gee, why isn’t George Soros the most admired -he’s running the nation, or perhaps that Saul Alinski fellow who dedicated Obama’s favorite book to Satan?

    I personally would have picked the guy who said not to” touch his junk.”

  12. James Joyner says:

    tom p:

    Yes, the Senate confirms most executive branch appointees. Because of separation of powers, though, they don’t confirm White House staffers or those in the Executive Office of the Presidency.

    The equivalence between Rove and HRC, though, is silly. Rove had a formal role in government and the scrutiny that went with it whereas HRC’s role was unofficial. Further, it would actually have been against the law (passed in response to discomfort with RFK’s role as JFK’s AG) for her to have an appointed role because of her relationship with the president.

    Again, though, much of the animosity came from the fact that her role was so starkly different from previous First Ladies.

  13. john personna says:

    There has has been a history of wives as unacknowledged partners. That changed in the last 20 years, and more people went back to “fix it.” The example of Alvin Toffler, adding his wife as co-author to “his” earlier works is a case in point.

    Hillary was caught on the turning point, between a generation where wives were just meant to be wives, and when they were meant to have lives.

    Of course, the tradition of electing wives to roles previously filled by dead husbands is older and wider than that, so some acknowledgement of partnership must have been there, beneath the surface.

    (James, you are a funny one to defend the old world. I hope your wife is in the kitchen!)

  14. wr says:

    Actually, most of the animosity came from the fact that she was a Democrat. She could have spent eight years darning socks and the right wing machine would have called her a castrating harpy who wanted to take over the world.

  15. Laura says:

    HILLARY 2012! SMARTEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD!

  16. anjin-san says:

    One of the interesting things about Hillary is that even her political opponents came to respect her for her intelligence, hard work and focus during her tenure in the Senate. Her personality can certainly be grating, but she clearly deserves credit for what she has accomplished.

  17. rodney dill says:

    Actually, most of the animosity came from the fact that she was a Democrat.

    For me the corruption of the Clinton machine was the biggest issue. I’m sure most of the concern from the right is for the same reason. I think she has been fine as Sec, of State.

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    Who wouldn’t admire a couple of sub pseudo intellectual communist millionaire abortionists?

  19. anjin-san says:

    > corruption of the Clinton machine

    The right did not seem to mind the corruption of the Bush/Cheney machine, which made corruption under Clinton look like the work of nickel and dime grifters…

  20. The high results for Ms. Palin and Ms. Clinton echo a phenomenon previously evidenced by Howard Cosell, who was at one point simultaneously the most admired and most hated sportscaster in America. Palin and Clinton (and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Nancy Reagan) are polarizing figures, and those who support them REALLY support them.

    Michelle Obama (so far) and Laura Bush tend to be less controversial, and therefore wouldn’t benefit from such rabid support.

    Jacqueline Onassis is a special case. While she tended toward the non-controversial end of the spectrum, her husband’s assassination in 1963 nearly deified her, so that she would be remembered long after Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, and Pat Nixon were forgotten.

  21. anjin-san says:

    Jackie Kennedy was a remarkably beautiful and accomplished woman, I think she is remembered on her own merits.

  22. tom p says:

    >”I think she is remembered on her own merits.”

    Anjin, outside of being beautiful, the wife of a dead president, and later the wife of one of the richest men in the world, what merits did she have? I honestly don’t remember any (other than raising 2 children thru very trying times, which to me is plenty) .

  23. tom p says:

    >”The equivalence between Rove and HRC, though, is silly. Rove had a formal role in government and the scrutiny that went with it whereas HRC’s role was unofficial.”

    Silly? C’mon James, you know better than that. One was called “Turd-blossom” and the other was replied to with a “Yes, Dear…”

    Her role may have been “un-official” but do you think she was any less powerful for that? As I recall, it was easier to get rid of Rove than it was HRC.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @wr: I don’t recall similar animosity towards Rosalyn Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, or Jackie Kennedy.

    @john p: Not “defending” the old world, merely explaining the resentment to HRC during the 1990s.

    @tom p: Not claiming she didn’t have power. Indeed, her surreptitious power (along with her grating personality) was what people resented.

  25. floyd says:

    What is most remarkable is the margin by which Obama came out on top (chart not presented in this post).

    Tano;
    Check the (chart presented in this post) after one year and two years…..

  26. anjin-san says:

    tom p…

    you don’t think that a woman being beautiful, charming and speaking french is enough? hell, give me those three things and I am seriously good to go.

    🙂

  27. tom p says:

    >”Not claiming she didn’t have power. Indeed, her surreptitious power (along with her grating personality) was what people resented.”

    And James, I can (and do) say the EXACT same things about Karl Rove… Difference is, she had to fight the gender gap. Rove tapped into the “good old boy” network.

    One, I find admirable, the other….. well, what can I say, I been fighting that one, one way or the other, my entire life.

  28. tom p says:

    >”you don’t think that a woman being beautiful, charming and speaking french is enough? hell, give me those three things and I am seriously good to go.”

    Anjin, She spoke French???? Oooo lala…. I did not know that was among her “merits” (I am a sucker for women from other places, speaking languages I do not understand)… I have dated women from the Netherlands, Italy, England and Mexico, and married one from Spain (when ever she is p*ssed at me, she speaks Majorcan)

  29. anjin-san says:

    Her French was pretty good, she was a sensation on the JFK state visit to Paris, not an easy thing for an American to do.

  30. Cas says:

    Wikileaks showed that Hllary stole other diplomat’s credit card information! She didn’t deny this, but apologized for doing this, which is an admission to guilt! PARDON ME…..but when does an I”M SORRY make everything ok after committing a crime? If that’s all it takes, then we need to open ourprisons and let out everyone who apologizes to their victims!!! I don’t know who did this poll, but if this is the kind of individual that is most admired in this country, no wonder it is said that, “Our government is the greatest criminal enterprise in all of history!”

    And the president on the other side??? I don’t believe there has been one single speech or press conference that he has not LIED to the public in! (plenty of proof …as most of these can be found on the internet!)

  31. An Interested Party says:

    “Wikileaks showed that Hllary stole other diplomat’s credit card information! She didn’t deny this, but apologized for doing this, which is an admission to guilt! PARDON ME…..but when does an I”M SORRY make everything ok after committing a crime?”

    Maybe you could make your way to Washington and make a citizen’s arrest…

    “I don’t believe there has been one single speech or press conference that he has not LIED to the public in!”

    While in DC, stop by the White House and try to sing a chorus of “Liar, liar, pants on fire”…