Ends Barack Obama’s 12-year most-admired run.
By Jeffrey M. Jones
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans are most likely to name President Donald Trump and Michelle Obama as most admired man and woman in 2020. Trump tied former President Barack Obama for the honor last year but edged out his predecessor this year. Trump’s first-place finish ends a 12-year run as most admired man for Obama, tied with Dwight Eisenhower for the most ever.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama ranks as most admired woman for the third year in a row. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is second.
Most Admired Man
The incumbent president is usually top of mind when Gallup asks Americans to name, without prompting, which man living anywhere in the world they admire most. In the 74 times Gallup has asked the open-ended most admired man question since 1946, the incumbent president has topped the list 60 times. Harry Truman (1946-1947 and 1950-1952), Lyndon Johnson (1967-1968), Richard Nixon (1973), Gerald Ford (1974-1975), Jimmy Carter (1980), George W. Bush (2008) and Trump (2017-2018) are the incumbent presidents who did not finish first in past years.
When the sitting president is not the top choice, it is usually because he is unpopular politically. That was the case in 2017 and 2018 when Trump had 36% and 40% approval ratings, respectively, and finished second to Obama as most admired man.
Even though Trump is similarly unpopular now — 39% approve of his performance — his dominant performance among Republicans, contrasted with Democrats splitting their choices among multiple public figures, pushes him to the top of the 2020 most admired man list.
Forty-eight percent of Republicans name Trump this year, with no other public figure receiving more than 2% of Republicans’ votes.
Obama is the top choice among Democrats, at 32%, but that is down from 41% last year. President-elect Joe Biden (13%) is also commonly named by Democrats.
Additionally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is named by 5% of Democrats but only 1% of Republicans, further contributing to Democrats’ relative dispersion of choices.
Independents are evenly split between Trump (11%) and Obama (11%), with another 3% naming Biden and 2% Fauci.
Overall, 18% of Americans name Trump, 15% name Obama, 6% Biden and 3% Fauci. The remaining top 10 men include Pope Francis, businessman Elon Musk, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, basketball player LeBron James, and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists.
Most Admired Man, 2020
What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most?
% Mentioning Number of top 10 finishes
Donald Trump 18 10
Barack Obama 15 15
Joe Biden 6 2
Dr. Anthony Fauci 3 1
Pope Francis 2 8
Elon Musk 1 4
Bernie Sanders 1 6
Bill Gates 1 21
LeBron James 1 1
Dalai Lama 1 11
Combined first and second mentions; rankings based on total number of responses
Gallup, Dec. 1-17, 2020
In addition to the public figures named by Americans, 11% name a relative or friend as the man they admire most. Twenty-one percent did not offer an opinion in response to the open-ended question.
This year marks the 10th time Trump has finished among the top 10 men, including four times before he entered party politics — 1988 through 1990 and 2011. Gates has finished in the top 10 a total of 21 times, while Obama has now done so 15 times and the Dalai Lama 11 times. Biden has been in the top 10 once before, in 2018, while Fauci and James are new to the list.
The Rev. Billy Graham, who passed away in 2018, finished among the top 10 a record 61 times during his life. Former President Jimmy Carter is the living man with the most top 10 finishes — 29 — putting him behind Graham and Ronald Reagan for third all-time. Carter finishes just outside the top 10 this year but made the 2019 list.
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