By Susan Page, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — President Obama is the man Americans admired most in 2009, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin are virtually tied as the most-admired woman.
The close finish by Clinton, named by 16% in the open-ended survey, and Palin, named by 15%, reflects the nation's partisan divide. Clinton was cited by nearly 3 in 10 Democrats but only 6% of Republicans, Palin by a third of Republicans but less than 1% of Democrats.
Obama dominates the field among men at 30%, though his support also shows a partisan split. He was named by more than half of Democrats but just 7% of Republicans.
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While the president's job-approval rating has eroded during his first year in office, his standing as the most-admired man demonstrates "a very strong fan base," says Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief. The only past presidents to score higher were George W. Bush in 2001, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and John Kennedy in 1961.
First lady Michelle Obama ranks as the fourth most-admired woman, behind Oprah Winfrey.
The survey, taken by Gallup almost every year since 1948, shows the nation's broad judgment — and name recall — of politicians, popes and talk-show hosts. Presidents often lead the list, though as president-elect, Obama swamped Bush in 2008. This year, as last, Bush finished a distant second.
South African leader Nelson Mandela is third and conservative commentator Glenn Beck fourth. Evangelist Billy Graham, who has been on the top-10 list every year the survey has been taken since 1955, is sixth, just after Pope Benedict XVI.
Among women, Clinton continues an unprecedented 17-year run as the first or second most-admired woman. She first led the list in 1993 as first lady and has held the top spot for the past eight years as a New York senator and, now, the nation's top diplomat. She lost a bid for the Democratic nomination last year. Palin was the GOP vice presidential nominee.
Among men, former president Bill Clinton ties for 10th with Tiger Woods, the golfer engulfed in scandal. Elin Nordegren Woods, the athlete's wife, ties with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the ninth most-admired woman.
The poll of 1,025 adults, taken Dec. 11-13, has a margin of error of +/–4 percentage points.
Over the years, the list has reflected women's changing roles. In 1948, the top-10 list included presidential daughter Margaret Truman and Princess Elizabeth of England as well as their mothers. Only one, former House member Clare Boothe Luce, had held elective office.
Now, it includes three current or former heads of state, two U.S. secretaries of State, a former governor and a writer, Maya Angelou.
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