Nelson Mandela was consistently among ‘most admired’ people, polling shows

December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and human rights icon, has died. He was 95.

In his lifetime, Mandela was routinely regarded by Americans as one of the "most admired" people in the world, according to decades of Gallup polls.

In annual polls going back to 1946, Mandela has been among the top 10 men — Gallup asks separate questions for men and women — mentioned 20 times. The only other non-U.S. presidents to exceed that are Billy Graham, who finished in the top 10 56 times, the most of anyone, and Pope John Paul II, who had 27 top 10 finishes.

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When canvassing the public about who they admire most, Gallup asks an open-ended question: "What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most?"

Typically, most people name the sitting president, then the rest of the responses are all over the map. Mandela has been in the low single digits, but that has been enough to consistently put him among the top 10 most admired men. And in 2012, he was ranked second behind President Obama.

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— Sean Sullivan contributed

The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan talks about the life and legacy of former South African president Nelson Mandela. (Thomas LeGro/The Washington Post)
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Sean Sullivan · December 5, 2013