Bigger Than Jesus?

By Dan Froomkin
9:45 AM ET, 02/19/2009

Harris Interactive reports: "When The Harris Poll asked a cross-section of adult Americans to say whom they admire enough to call their heroes, President Barack Obama was mentioned most often, followed by Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King....

"These heroes were named spontaneously. Those surveyed were not shown or read a list of people to choose from. The Harris Poll was conducted online among a sample of 2,634 U.S. adults (aged 18 and over) by Harris Interactive between January 12 and 19, 2009....

"This question was first asked in a Harris Poll in 2001. In that survey Jesus Christ was the hero mentioned most often, followed by Martin Luther King, Colin Powell, John F. Kennedy and Mother Teresa."

But lest you think that Obama is -- as John Lennon so famously once said of the Beatles -- more popular than Jesus, the folks at Harris point out: "The fact that President Obama is mentioned more often than Jesus Christ should not be misinterpreted. No list was used and nobody was asked to choose between them."

Poll respondents gave many reasons to explain their choice of heroes. Among them: "Doing what's right regardless of personal consequences" (89%); "Not giving up until the goal is accomplished" (83%); "Doing more than what other people expect of them" (82%); "Overcoming adversity" (81%); and "Staying level-headed in a crisis" (81%).

© 2009 The Washington Post Company