WASHINGTON — His party may have suffered a shellacking in November's elections, but President Obama remains the unchallenged champion on another front: For the third year in a row, he is by far the most-admired man.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continues an even longer run, ranked in the USA Today/Gallup Poll as the most-admired woman for the ninth straight year. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is second, as she was in 2009.
Despite Americans' unhappiness with the nation's politics, politicians dominate both lists. The top 10 men include not only the president but also the three living former presidents. Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton take the top three spots.
Among women, nine of the top 11 are connected to politics through public service, political activism or marriage.
"It's all about power," says Richard Slotkin, professor emeritus of American studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. "When we think of importance, we think politically, that's really clear - with religion a close second, though Bill Gates beats out Pope Benedict. It's almost like a register of power."
Not on either top-10 list: A Supreme Court justice, current senator or congressman, athlete or scientist.
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck edges ahead of the Dalai Lama, who ranks 10th. Gates, a philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, stands just behind South African icon Nelson Mandela and just before Pope Benedict XVI.
Evangelist Billy Graham, tied for sixth, has made the top 10 every year the survey has been taken since 1955.
The top 11 women (three are tied for ninth place) counts four first ladies, including Michelle Obama in fourth place. Celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, both of whom pursue charitable causes, also are on the list.
Three of the women are leaders from abroad: Queen Elizabeth and former prime minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.Comment on this story
Barack Obama's standing has fallen from the heady days after his election in 2008. That year, he was cited by 32 percent, an historic rating that trailed only Bush's percentage in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and president John Kennedy in 1961. This year, Obama was named by 22 percent, Bush by 5 percent.
Some of the findings reflect a partisan cast. Obama is named by almost half of Democrats but just 6 percent of Republicans. Bush is the most-admired man among Republicans, cited by 11 percent. Hillary Clinton is cited by nearly a third of Democrats but just 5 percent of Republicans. Palin is the most-admired woman among Republicans at 26 percent.
Not everyone has a hero. Twenty-five percent declined to name a most-admired man and 22 percent didn't name a most-admired woman. About one in 10 chose a friend or relative.
The survey of 1,019 adults, taken Dec. 10-12, has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.