News Column

Obama, Clinton Top 2011 Lists

Dec 28, 2011

By Cathy Lynn Grossman

Hillary Clinton

President Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are the nation's most-admired man and woman -- again -- in the annual USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

Each leads their category with 17% of votes in top10 lists that favor the most familiar names in global politics, religion, entertainment and culture.

Linda Dinco, 62, of Latrobe, Pa., says she named Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for their "intelligence and their toughness."

Obama supplanted George W. Bush at No.1 in 2008 but Bush continues in the No.2 spot, according to the poll of 1,019 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 15-18.

Former president Bill Clinton hovers in third this year, just above the most frequently named person in the poll's history: Billy Graham. The 93-year-old evangelist has been on the list since Gallup first asked the question in 1946 and has made the top10 55 times.

Perennial runner-up Oprah Winfrey is No.2 for women for the 10th time. It's her 24th year in the top10.

First lady Michelle Obama garnered third place, dropping former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to fourth this year.

After the first two or three names at the top of these lists, it's a steep drop percentage-wise. Many make the top10 without a lot of support.

No.5 Warren Buffett had 2% of the votes, the same as Bill Clinton and Graham, but the order was set when the numbers were rounded.

Buffett drew a vote from Alan Rhodes, 58, of Arlington, Texas. Rhodes says he admires the billionaire because "his wealth is secondary to loving his work."

Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump tied for sixth place with 1% each, a hair's breadth above Pope Benedict XVI, Bill Gates and Mormon Church prophet Thomas Monson.

The women's list has some remarkable ties as well.

Tied for No.7 are former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and comic Ellen DeGeneres. They're just below former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former first lady Laura Bush.

Queen Elizabeth, on the list since 1948 when she was a princess, tied for ninth place this year with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, now campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.

Only a vote or two kept pious powerhouse Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback known for prayer and last-quarter saves, out of the top10. He still topped the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan monk ranked first with Mark Goodman, 39, a high school principal in St. David, Ariz. Goodman called the Dalai Lama "thoughtful, compassionate and always focused on standing up for his people. That's real leadership."

Religious stature often vaults people to the top -- Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa both led their lists in 1980 -- but it's most often political ties that turn on the limelight.

President after president and their spouses have landed in the top10. Hillary Clinton has topped the list 16 times, more than any other woman. Eleanor Roosevelt led the list 13 times.

Still, no one can claim to be the biggest name of all.

In 2011, one in three poll respondents named no one to either list. And more people named a friend or relative rather than give the laurels to any famous man or woman.

Jenna Lelansky, 30, of Turner, Maine, honored her mother and father, calling them "beautiful examples of living love, wonderful people who are full of compassion."

Judith Hurt, 53, of Willoughby, Ohio, just had fun with the question.

"I'm not into politics so I went with the people I really admire: George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez," she says.

Clooney's sexy smile reminds Hurt of Rosemary Clooney, the actor's aunt, who crooned in Hurt's favorite movie, White Christmas.

As for singer Lopez, Hurt says, "She's come so far. She's a mom of twins and she still looks hot!"

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2011

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