Every year for more than seven decades, the analytics company Gallup has asked Americans to name the man and woman they admire most in the world. For 2019, the votes are in — and Donald Trump and Barack Obama tied for "Most Admired Man." What a pairing? Given the increasingly bipartisan and polarized nature of politics over the course of the past decade, this duo feels almost a little too on-the-nose as a way to ring out the final year of the 2010s.
Gallup has conducted this poll every year since 1948, and in 2019, the poll took place between Dec. 2 and Dec. 15. Gallup reached out to a random sample of 1,025 American adults over the age of 18 and asked, "what man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?" Of those surveyed, 18% named Obama and 18% named Trump, resulting in a tie. Former first lady Michelle Obama claimed the top spot for "most admired woman" for the second year running.
This is Trump's first time polling as most admired man of the year. Obama, on the other hand, has now won this honor for 12 years in a row. According to Gallup, the 2019 poll reflected significant partisan divisions, with 45% of Republicans naming Trump and 41% of Democrats choosing Obama. (Independents were split, but leaned slightly towards Obama.)
Gallup noted that in 58 of its 72 previous polls, Americans selected the sitting president as the man they admired most. It is Trump's third year in office, but only the first time he has received this distinction, which may be a little disappointing to him. As of Dec. 15, Trump achieved an approval rating of 45%, which is higher than his overall average of 40% approval. According to Gallup, this increase in Trump's popularity likely explains why he was finally able to tie with Obama.
Many social media users reacted to the Trump-Obama tie with a mixture of hilarity and disbelief. In their eyes, this poll was an inevitable conclusion to a decade that has been full of confusing, and sometimes absurd, political moments.
The fact that 18% of people surveyed named Obama isn't too surprising, given that 19% did so in 2018 and 17% did so in 2017, not to mention a particularly impressive 30% back in 2012, after he won his second term. But these figures are still quite high for a man who hasn't been in the White House since 2017. The only other former president who received double-digit mentions in Gallup's poll was Dwight Eisenhower. Like Obama, Eisenhower was recognized as America's "most admired man" a total of 12 times.
That there was such a partisan divide in Americans' 2019 responses, however, is pretty telling — particularly given the increasing partisan divide in American politics. Trump and Obama stand at very different parts of the American political spectrum, and their respective political parties hold them in relatively high regard. Heading into 2020, Trump faces an impeachment trial and a re-election bid — but at least he can now say, with proof, that he was recognized as one of two "most admired men" before the end of his first term in office.