Apparently, Cathy Lynn Grossman, who wrote the Post article and was stunned by the results, has not been paying attention even to her own newspaper. The Post’s Dana Milbank noted in 2009 that Gallup’s most admired list showed Glenn Beck, “the new Fox News host who has said President Obama has a ‘deep-seated hatred for white people’ and alternately likens administration officials to Nazis and Marxists,” more admired than Pope Benedict, as well as Billy Graham, Bill Gates, John McCain, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods. Such news, Milbank wrote, was “at once unsettling and unsurprising.”
The next year, Gallup reported that Glenn Beck was more admired than the Dalai Lama, and equally as admired as the Pope, Billy Graham and Jimmy Carter. And last year, Gallup’s annual poll showed Vladimir Putin – the bare-chested, horseback-riding, homophobic dictator of Russia – to be tied for America’s sixth most admired man in the world, along with Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, among others.
Gallup uses an open-ended question format (no names are suggested to the respondent) that asks “What [man/woman] that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most?” With so many possible names for respondents to choose from, and no time for them to do any serious reflection, it’s not a surprise that the choices are scattered among many names and the “winner” is mentioned by just a small percentage of the public. This year, Barack Obama, who was mentioned the most in the men’s contest, got just 17% of the responses, while Trump and the Pope each got 5%.
So you get the picture. This is not a legitimate way to measure America’s “most admired” men and women. Even the Gallup Poll Editor-in-Chief, Frank Newport, has acknowledged that the poll does not measure “most admired,” but rather some vague “brand awareness,” a top-of-mind recollection of a person in the news. He also admits there is a better way to measure most admired, but for tradition’s sake, he has chosen not to change. (See here for a summary of Newport’s comments. The original article can no longer be found on the Gallup website.)
Probably most years, it really doesn’t matter what the poll shows. After all, it’s just an end-of-the-year piece of info-tainment, something for pundits and columnists to jaw about, but certainly not to take seriously. While it doesn’t bring any credit to Gallup for continuing to publish such drivel, in most years it probably doesn’t hurt anyone either.
But this year is different. Trump’s anti-Muslim, racist, and misogynistic views have been published worldwide, and repudiated across the political spectrum, including the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. Still, given Trump’s lead in most polls of the GOP primary electorate, the candidate’s views are seen in other countries as indicative of what a substantial segment of American voters think, significantly hurting America’s image abroad.
And now comes the legendary Gallup Poll, self-admittedly producing a poll that wrongly portrays Trump as the country’s second most admired man in the world.
Gallup – Isn’t it time to kill this “most admired” poll? Either do it right, or don’t do it at all.