Obama and Trump tie as America’s most admired man of 2019 in annual Gallup poll

Obama becomes the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to finish in the top spot after leaving office

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published December 30, 2019 1:48PM (EST)

Donald Trump; Barack Obama   (Getty/Jim Watson/Chip Somodevilla)
Donald Trump; Barack Obama (Getty/Jim Watson/Chip Somodevilla)

Former President Barack Obama tied President Donald Trump as the most admired man of 2019, while former first lady Michelle Obama was crowned the most admired woman in America for the second year in a row, according to Gallup’s annual survey.

Barack Obama finished in the top spot for the 12th time, while Trump inched up into the top spot after lagging behind Obama for years.

Eighteen percent of respondents said Obama was the man who they admired most, while 18 percent said the same of Trump. The responses went mostly down party lines: Forty-one percent of Democrats named Obama (2 percent named Trump), while 45 percent of Republicans named Trump (3 percent named Obama). Twelve percent of independents named Obama, while 10 percent of independents named Trump.

No other man finished above 2 percent in the poll. Other common responses included former President Jimmy Carter, entrepreneur Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., California Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and the Dalai Lama.

Trump climbed the rankings in 2019 in spite of being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. Just 13 percent named Trump as their most admired man in 2018, while 14 percent named him in 2017. About 19 percent named Obama in 2018, and 17 percent named him in 2017.

The incumbent president has earned the most admired man title in 58 of 72 annual Gallup polls. Obama, however, is the only president outside of Dwight Eisenhower to ever receive double-digit mentions after leaving office.

Michelle Obama, meanwhile, was the only woman to receive double-digit mentions in the poll, again finishing in the top spot at 10 percent. First lady Melania Trump finished second with 5 percent. Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and climate change activist Greta Thunberg finished at 3 percent each. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley finished in the top 10 also.

Prior to Michelle Obama finishing first last year, Clinton was named the most admired woman in the country 22 times.

Trump’s rise in the Gallup poll tracks with his rising approval rating. His approval was under 40 percent in previous polls, but he has risen to 45 percent in the latest Gallup survey and 44 percent on the RealClearPolitics poll average. Nearly three years into his term, Trump’s approval rating is just 2 percent lower than Obama’s was at this point in his presidency, according to RCP.

But opposition to Trump has increased, as well. He consistently trails top Democratic contenders in re-election polls, and roughly half of voters support the Senate removing him from office. Half of voters also predict that Trump will go down in history as a “poor” or “below average” commander-in-chief.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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