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CEP discussion paper

'American Idol' - 65 years of Admiration

Since the 1940s Gallup has, every December, asked Americans about the living man and woman they most admire. This paper documents the way in which the types of people who are admired has changed and argues that the responses to this question tells us something about the way in which society has been evolving - the 65 years of data are probably the longest consistent series on social attitudes. We argue on theoretical grounds and show using empirical analysis that admiration can be linked to trust, and specifically that admiring the president is strongly related to trust in government. Using this link we can provide information on trends in trust on a consistent basis back to the late 1940s, earlier than most other data sources. Finally, the paper investigates the link between admiration and media mentions. We show that people who receive a relatively large number of mentions in newspapers in particular year and state are also more likely to be admired by people.

Alan Manning and Amar Shanghavi

18 December 2014     Paper Number CEPDP1320

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Community Wellbeing programme.