Poll: President Trump, Michelle Obama named most admired man and most admired woman

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, December 29, 2020

President Donald Trump and former first lady Michelle Obama were named as the most admired man and most admired woman in 2020.

Trump’s first-place finish ends a 12-year run as the most admired man for former President Barack Obama. Trump tied Obama last year before edging him out this year.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama ranks as most admired woman for the third year in a row. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is second.

The selections were part of an annual Gallup poll which asks Americans to name, without prompting, which man and which woman living anywhere in the world they admire most.

Overall, 18% of Americans named Trump, 15% named Obama, 6% Biden and 3% Dr. Anthony Fauci.

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 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.

After Trump, Obama, Biden and Fauci, the remaining top 10 men named 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.

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.

Just as men who were president have dominated the most admired man list, women who were first lady have commonly been named most admired woman. Gallup has asked the public to name the woman they admire most 71 times since 1948, with either a current (18) or a former (39) first lady winning a total of 57 times. That has been the case every year since 1997, with Hillary Clinton accounting for most of those — but Michelle Obama (2018 through 2020) and Laura Bush (2001) also finished first during that time span.

This year, 10% of Americans name Obama as most admired woman, 6% name Harris, and 4% name current first lady Melania Trump. The remainder of the top 10 most admired women this year include television personality Oprah Winfrey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former first lady Hillary Clinton, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Queen Elizabeth II, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and climate change activist Greta Thunberg.