WASHINGTON — Another big win for President-elect Barack Obama: He dethroned President George W. Bush as the nation's most-admired man this year in spectacular fashion.
Obama was named most admired living man by 32 percent of Americans, a figure that Gallup poll analyst Lydia Saad called "extraordinarily high." The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted Dec. 12-14 and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Bush topped the most admired man list in 2007 with a 10 percent showing, his seventh straight year on top. He reached as high as 39 percent shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This month, however, he sank to 5 percent to finish a distant second to his successor.
The number was the latest in a series. Bush's Gallup job approval rating was 29 percent, and a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey taken Dec. 19-21 and released Friday put the figure at 27 percent. Seventy-five percent said they're glad that Bush is leaving.
The dismal numbers puts Bush in a select group of humbled incumbents since Gallup started asking the "most admired" question in 1948. Pope John Paul II was ahead of Jimmy Carter in 1980, during the Iran hostage crisis. Dwight D. Eisenhower beat Lyndon Johnson as the Vietnam War escalated in 1967 and 1968, and as the Watergate scandal unfolded and the nation reeled from its aftermath, Henry Kissinger bested Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1975.
Obama's showing is hardly surprising: Gallup found that 75 percent approve of his handling of the transition.
"Not only does he walk on water, but he even looks good walking out of the water," said Tobe Berkovitz, the associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication. Obama is vacationing in Hawaii this week, and shirtless pictures of the president-elect looking fit and trim are popular on the Internet.
Although Obama soared, he didn't have coattails for his wife, Michelle. She landed in fifth place on the most-admired woman list at 3 percent. Topping that chart was Obama's onetime political nemesis and now his choice to be secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who's No. 1 for the seventh straight year.
She had some new competition, however.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican 2008 vice presidential candidate, was a strong second, surging past television host Oprah Winfrey, an early Obama backer who'd been the runner-up since 2002.
Berkovitz called Clinton's ability to head the list the culmination of a "180-degree turn from failed presidential candidate to admired potential secretary of state. There's been almost nothing negative about her since she was named."
Clearly, her showing was more than nostalgia, because some very recent well-known figures were barely mentioned.
Former president Bill Clinton tied with Rev. Billy Graham and Pope Benedict XVI for fourth, each at 2 percent. Remember Republican presidential candidate John McCain? Three percent.
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