Teens Search for Role Models Close to Home

by Jennifer Robison, Contributing Editor

Here's an early Father's Day present for dads across the nation: you, and the leader of the free world, top American teens' lists of men they admire most in the world. And a belated Mother's Day gift for mom: you top the list, hands down, of teens' most admired women.

How Are the Folks?

In a recent Gallup Youth Survey*, American teens (aged 13 to 17) were asked to name, without any prompting, the man and the woman (currently living anywhere in the world) that they most admire. Moms got a nice 11% of the tally for the most admired woman, and 7% of teens mentioned their dads the man they admire most.

Beyond relatives, five men and nine women were mentioned by 1% or more of respondents to the open-ended question, although in neither group is there any widespread consensus as to whom teens most admire. President George W. Bush, at 6%, receives the greatest number of mentions as the most admired man other than dad. Also making the list of teens' most admired men are former basketball star Michael Jordan, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and rapper Eminem. The lack of consensus is underscored by the fact that 44% of teens named some other man as the most admired man. Thirty-four percent of teens did not mention a name in response to the question.

There is even less consensus as to the most admired woman, once respondents' mothers are taken out of the equation. Nine women were mentioned by name, but none by more than 3% of teens: entertainer Jennifer Lopez, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, singers Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne, actresses Halle Berry and Julia Roberts, New York Sen. and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, current first lady Laura Bush, and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

Thirty-four percent of teens named some other woman, and 40% gave no response.

Bottom Line

Other than Parks, considered by many to be the mother of the civil rights movement, all the people who were named by at least 1% of teens are politicians, entertainers, athletes, or relatives. Though the greatest number of teens name their mothers or fathers, a far greater proportion don't name anyone. While it's nice to realize that many teens see their parents as their best role models, it's disconcerting to consider that so many can't name anyone they admire at all.

*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 1,200 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Jan. 23-Feb. 10, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%. For a complete description of the sampling and weighting procedures used to conduct the survey, click here.

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