Does Admiration Matter?

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I'm going to go with, "No -- or at least not nearly as much as we might think."

Gallup pollsters reported Monday that President Obama was for the third year in a row "Americans' Most Admired Man," while Hillary Clinton was the most admired woman in America.

Indeed, "Clinton has dominated the Most Admired Woman title for most of the past two decades, earning 15 No. 1 rankings since her first appearance on the list in 1992," notes Gallup.

That didn't help her become the first female president in 2008, however, and all the admiration for Obama this fall didn't help him keep the House of Representatives in Democratic hands.

Meanwhile, the "single-digit performances" of Michelle Obama "on the list since Barack Obama took office are on the low side for other first ladies since Carter at this point in their husband's first term," Gallup notes.

Not that it really matters. Hillary Clinton, after all, was the most admired woman for 22 percent of survey respondents her first year of first lady, as compared to the just 7 percent support for Michelle Obama in hers -- and yet any reasonable observer would say Obama is far less controversial a figure than Clinton was.

Perhaps, in the end, this survey says something only about the nature of admiration.

We admire people who take risks or do things that are gutsy -- but we don't necessarily like them very much, or even back what it is they are up to.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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