In a new USA Today/Gallup Poll, a sample of 1,008 Americans picked President-elect Barack Obama as the man they admire most. No president-elect has topped the poll since war hero Dwight Eisenhower 56 years ago.
Thirty-two percent of respondents picked Obama, while runner-up George Bush notched just 5 percent. In further parallels with 1952, that matches Harry Truman’s performance in the Gallup Poll. Bush has long had only Truman as company as the least-popular president in contemporary opinion polls. His ratings, which have languished in the 20s and 30s, are similar to those that Truman earned during his second term, as troops were bogged down in Korea. Bush’s numbers, however, have stayed lower, and for longer, than Truman’s.
Obama’s high numbers suggest that, in a time of national crisis, he may have the public goodwill to try to effect significant change. USA Today manages to find an expert who calls this historically high level of support a “two-edged sword.”
Meanwhile, in a sign of how bad things are for Republicans, the poll’s most admired woman is the runner-up in the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton garners 20 percent of the vote, while the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate, beloved of the base and already a 2012 contender, clocks just 11. But Sarah Palin does far better than the man who tapped her for the Republican ticket. Only 3 percent of respondents picked John McCain as most admired man.