American adults (age 18 and over) spontaneously named President Obama as the person they admire enough to call their hero in a Harris Poll that did not provide a list for respondents to choose from.
The Harris Poll, released on Thursday, was conducted on 2,634 American adults between January 12 to 19 – just ahead of President Obama’s inauguration.
“The fact that President Obama is mentioned more often than Jesus Christ should not be misinterpreted,” The Harris Poll clarified in its report. “No list was used and nobody was asked to choose between them.”
Following Barack Obama, the next most popular personal heroes are Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger, and Mother Teresa, respectively, to round out the top 10 people Americans say they admire and would call their hero.
In the top 20 list, God held the No 11 spot while evangelist Billy Graham tied with former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the 13th slot.
Respondents gave multiple reasons for their choice of heroes, including: doing what’s right regardless of personal consequences (89 percent); not giving up until the goal is accomplished (83 per cent); doing more than what other people expect of them (82 per cent); overcoming adversity (81 per cent); and staying level-headed in a crisis (81 per cent).
Only 14 per cent of Americans said they admire either their mother or father enough to call them their hero. In contrast, nearly half (49 per cent) said a public figure is someone they admire and consider a personal hero.
The public also named several well-known figures that they no longer consider their hero, which includes Colin Powell, George W Bush, John McCain, Bill Clinton and John F Kennedy. In 2001, Bill Clinton topped the list for a similar survey conducted by Harris Poll.
Among other observations made by the poll conductors, six of the top ten heroes are dead; the top 10 list includes five presidents; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranks higher in the 2009 list (No 12) than her husband, former President Bill Clinton (No 16).
Since the 2001 list, several people have dropped off the list completely, including Pope John Paul (was 18th), Jimmy Carter (was 20th), Nelson Mandela (was 21st), Michael Jordan (was 9th), Princess Diana (was 16th), and Tiger Woods (was 23rd).