Posted by Jay Livingston
USA Today loves polls. The bottom of page one often has a box showing the mood of the nation as a simple graph. These used to be accompanied by a “We” headline (“We’re Eating More Fish!”).
The newspaper closed out the year with a front-page report of their poll on the men and women we most admire. The idea of the poll is silly enough. Here are the results for most-admired men.
And the women.
Whatever the wording of the question actually is, what it’s really asking is: “Try to think of someone who’s famous but isn’t a rock star or TV/movie actor.”
But USA adds another layer of silliness with this interpretation of the results
The close finish by Clinton, named by 16% in the open-ended survey, and Palin, named by 15%, reflects the nation's partisan divide.It does? Then why doesn’t the list of admired men also reflect the same close divide? Yes, the sitting president always gets top spot, but the margin varies. The results from 2006 were
- George W. Bush 10%
- Bill Clinton 8%
- Al Gore 6%
- Barack Obama 5%
Similarly, in this year’s women’s poll, the combined liberal percentage (Hillary, Oprah, Michelle Obama) beats the conservatives (Palin, Rice) 31% - 17%.
But the real mistake is to think that when you ask people to name someone they admire you are getting a political profile of the nation.