When asked whom they admired enough to call their heroes, a cross-section of over 2,500 adult Americans mentioned President Barack Obama most often. Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King came in second and third, respectively.
The respondents named their heroes spontaneously and were not provided with a list of names to choose from.
Others in the top ten, in descending order, included Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger, and Mother Teresa.
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Participants were asked to explain their choice of heroes. The most popular reasons were "doing what's right regardless of personal consequences," "not giving up until the goal is accomplished," and "doing more than what other people expect of them."
The same poll had been conducted in 2001. Back then, Barack Obama was completely unknown, and George W. Bush rated only 19th (and is now fifth on the list). Also at that time, John Wayne and Michael Jordan ranked 8th and 9th respectively and have now dropped out of the top 20. Colin Powell went from third to 16th.
It is also interesting to note that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranks higher (12th) than her husband former President Bill Clinton (16th, tied with Colin Powell and George Washington).
The poll findings harken back to March 1966 when John Lennon told a British newspaper that he thought the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
The backlash was incredible, with the American Bible Belt protesting in the South and Midwest, and conservative groups staging public burnings of Beatles' records and memorabilia.
Hopefully, Obama will be spared the grief Lennon got in the 60s.
"I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is," he said in a follow-up interview, claiming he was just stating a fact regarding the youth in England at that time.
The entire list of responses to the recent poll and other results can be viewed at the Harris Interactive Web site.