While it is interesting to note that sitting presidents tend to lead in Gallup’s “Most Admired Lists,” two other things immediately struck me when looking at the tables:
1. There is a relatively big gap between #1 for most admired man and woman and everyone else. This year, President Obama is at 17% and his next closest competitor is at 3% while Hillary Clinton is also at 17% and her next competitor is at 7%. Since Gallup asks this as an open-ended question (exact phrasing: “What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?”), it suggests that people name famous people, particularly types who are likely to be in the news a lot and whose positions are notable. If this is the case, is this really a survey about who is most admired or more about who is most well-known?
2. The leaders in each category are only at 17% and their competitors are quite a ways back. This could lead to several suggestions. Perhaps Americans don’t think in these terms much. For men, 32% said none or had no opinion and for women, 29% said none or had no opinion. Additionally, when asked about men 9% said a friend or relative and 12% said the same when asked about women. Even the current President is only most admired by 17%, suggesting that Americans are not necessarily looking to admire their political leaders. Another possible explanation might be that there is a wide range of admirable famous people in the United States. For men, the top 10 only account for 31% of responses though the top 10 females account for 47% of responses. This might reflect the lesser number of women in positions of power or leadership so more attention is focused on a select few.
This leads me to think that this poll may not really not tell us much about anything. Those selected as admired have relatively low figures, certain positions in society lead to being selected, and there are clear leaders but then also a mass of closely-admired figures.
UPDATE 12/28/11 10:11 PM – There seems to be similar variability in a recent poll that asked Americans which celebrity they most wanted to live next door. Also:
The majority of surveyed adults (42 percent) said they did not want to live next to any celebrities. “As a voyeuristic culture that breathlessly tracks every celebrity movement, it’s extremely surprising to see so many Americans saying they wouldn’t like to live next to any celebrity at all,” said Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Amy Bohutinsky. “In fact, more people opted out of a celebrity neighbor in 2012 than in any of the past years we’ve run this poll.”
Perhaps Americans are more tired of famous people this year?