Despite Notable Decline in Support, Clintons Remain "Most Admired" Man and Woman in America

by Leslie McAneny

Billy Graham and Oprah Winfrey come in second on Gallup's annual list

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- On the eve of the long-awaited year 2000, Gallup's annual measure of the world's most admired men and women reveals a marked decrease in public esteem for most well known figures. While Bill Clinton retains the distinction of being the most admired man "living today in any part of the world," he is the first or second choice of only 10% of Americans, down from 18% in 1998. Hillary Rodham Clinton's rate of decline is even more precipitous: the choice of 28% in 1998, she retains the top spot among the most admired women in 1999 with only 14% support.

Despite President Clinton's tarnished personal image resulting from the Monica Lewinsky affair, he leads the field for the seventh consecutive year. This is not unexpected; the sitting president has topped the list all but eight times since the inaugural poll in 1946. The First Lady's support last year -- when she benefited greatly from her dignified demeanor during the Lewinsky scandal -- was unusually high. In 1997, she topped the list of most admired women with 14%, exactly the same percentage as in 1999.

Other than the first lady, who else comes to mind when Americans are asked about living women they admire? Oprah Winfrey retained second place on the list this year, named first or second by 6% of Americans -- down from 8% in 1998. Other carry-overs from 1998 include Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Dole, Madeleine Albright, Barbara Bush and Queen Elizabeth. Janet Reno and Monica Lewinsky dropped off the list, while Nancy Reagan and Barbara Walters reappeared in a tie for eighth place, closely followed by Maya Angelou, Betty Ford, Rosa Parks and three entertainers: Rosie O'Donnell, Celine Dion and Madonna.

Billy Graham Bucks the Trend
The Reverend Billy Graham's amazing tenure on the list of most admired men continues. In his 36th consecutive appearance, he is named by 7% of Americans this year as most admired, up from 5% a year ago, and second only to President Clinton. Pope John Paul II is next on the 1999 list, which also includes three former presidents -- Reagan, Carter and Bush. Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates and Colin Powell also make repeat appearances on the list. No less than 13 men from a wide variety of occupations are tied for 10th place, mentioned by 1% each.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,037 adults, 18 years and older, conducted December 9-12, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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?

COMBINED FIRST AND SECOND CHOICES (Ranked according to number of responses, 1999)

    Dec 9-12,
1999
Dec 28-29,
1998
Dec 18-21,
1997
1. Bill Clinton 10% ** 18% ** 14% **
2. (The Reverend) Billy Graham 7 5 6
3. Pope John Paul II 6 7 5
4. Ronald Reagan 4 3 3
5. Nelson Mandela 4 2 3
6. Bill Gates 3 2 2
7. Jimmy Carter 3 2 3
8. George Bush (former president) 2 3 3
9. Colin Powell 2 3 4
10. John McCain 1 -- --
  Jesse Jackson 1 1 2
  George W. Bush (Texas governor) 1 -- --
  Michael Jordan 1 4 2
  Gordon Hinkley 1 -- --
  The Dalai Lama 1 -- --
  Bill Bradley 1 -- --
  Christopher Reeves 1 -- --
  Donald Trump 1 -- --
  Tom Hanks 1 -- --
  Rush Limbaugh 1 -- --
  Ross Perot 1 * 1
  Hugh Hefner 1 -- --
 
  Friend/Relative 10 12 10
  Other 25 34 31
  None/No opinion 25 29 34

** Note: Up to 2 mentions allowed
* Mentioned by less than 0.5 percent.
-- Too few, if any, mentions recorded that year for name to appear on coded list of admired men.

What woman 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?

COMBINED FIRST AND SECOND CHOICES (Ranked according to number of responses, 1999)

    Dec 9-12,
1999
Dec 28-29,
1998
Dec 18-21,
1997
1. Hillary (Rodham) Clinton 14% ** 28% ** 14% **
2. Oprah Winfrey 6 8 5
3. Margaret Thatcher 4 4 5
4. Elizabeth Dole 4 6 2
5. Madeleine Albright 3 3 4
6. Barbara Bush 3 3 5
7. Queen Elizabeth 2 1 1
8. (Tie) Nancy Reagan 1 * 1
8. (Tie) Barbara Walters 1 -- --
10. Rosie O'Donnell 1 -- --
  Maya Angelou 1 2 2
  Betty Ford 1 -- --
  Celine Dion 1 -- --
  Madonna 1 -- --
  Rosa Parks 1 -- --
 
  Friend/Relative 12 13 13
  Other 22 27 24
  None/No opinion 33 29 34

** Note: Up to 2 mentions allowed
* Mentioned by less than 0.5 percent.
-- Too few, if any, mentions recorded that year for name to appear on coded list of admired women.

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