What Do America’s Most Admired Men and Women Say About America?

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


This is a month old, but Tyler Cowen happened to highlight it today so I thought I’d pass it along. Here are America’s most admired men and women at the end of 2014:

I suppose there are no huge surprises here. Presidents and first ladies always do well. People in the news often do well. And while I was alarmed when I saw Vladimir Putin on the list in Cowen’s post, I’m a little less alarmed now. He’s at the very bottom of the 1 percenters, which likely means he was named by something like 0.6 percent of Americans and then rounded up. This comes to a grand total of about five people in the survey group, which I suppose is nothing to get too stirred up about.

Not a single dead person continues to make the list, which explains why Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher are off the list. Queen Elizabeth II is a perennial favorite and she’s still alive, but after the excitement of her Diamond Jubilee faded, I guess she did too.

What’s the biggest surprise on the list? I’d say Condoleezza Rice. She’s remarkably high on the list for someone associated with an unpopular war and not much recent news coverage. She’s at the very top of the list among Republicans, though, so there must be more going on here than I realize. Rice has been rising in popularity over the last couple of years, and surely that’s not just because she was part of college football’s playoff selection committee last year, was it? Nor do I feel like I see her on Fox News a lot. So what’s going on?

Completely missing from the list are: sports stars, military figures, authors and artists not already famous for something else, and liberal pundits of any kind. Almost missing are politicians aside from ex-presidents and first ladies (Elizabeth Warren is the exception—barely); Republican presidential wannabes (Ben Carson is the exception); and scientists (Stephen Hawking is the exception, almost certainly based solely on the recent biopic). Overall, conservative men do much better than conservative women.

As Cowen asks, “Given who is on the list, what should we infer about America as a nation? About human nature?”

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate