Obama finished in the number one spot, with Jesus listed as the second most commonly named “hero.” People responding “God” put Him in eleventh place.
Note that the Harris poll did not ask respondents to select from a list; rather, the survey asked more than 2,500 Americans to name whomever they admired most. Respondents were allowed to name up to three individuals.
Unsurprisingly, presidents fared well in the survey. In addition to Barack Obama in the first spot, Ronald Reagan came in fourth; George W. Bush, fifth; Abraham Lincoln, sixth; and John F. Kennedy, eighth. Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, and Bill Clinton also finished in the top 20. Other U.S. political figures finishing well were (in descending order of popularity) John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and Sarah Palin. Others who were mentioned by more than one percent of respondents were Martin Luther King Jr., airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, George S. Patton, and Bill Gates.
Jesus will continue to move down the list of “popularity.”
The most common justification respondents used for identifying a hero was “doing what’s right regardless of personal consequences.” (See the complete poll results [PDF].)
The results—especially when compared with results of the same poll conducted in 2001—clearly show how many identified “heroes” are determined by the vicissitudes of current events and public opinion. Nonetheless, our guess is that people are thinking of religious heroes (such as those from the Bible) less and less. We also predict that at the rate things are going, Jesus will continue to move down the list of “popularity.” But then again, Jesus didn’t come to be popular!
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