The top ten people Americans choose to be their role models

4 min readNov 13, 2019
New research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of University of Phoenix reveal the people most likely to be our role models. (Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash)

“Never give up on your dreams,” “education is the best legacy” and “believe in yourself” are examples of the best pieces of advice given to Americans by their role models, according to new data.

A survey of 2,000 Americans found that 74 percent of respondents had or currently have a role model — and for those who do, the average person has four.

And results revealed that intelligence, leadership skills and confidence in their abilities are the top three characteristics we admire in those we look up to.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of University of Phoenix, the survey found that dad is most likely to exemplify those traits — he was chosen as the top role model for respondents (47 percent).

Mom was a close second (42 percent), followed by a favorite teacher or professor (41 percent).

But the survey looked at more than just who our role models are; it also delved into the influence they have on our lives.

The vast majority of those with a role model — 81 percent — say their role model has influenced some of their major life decisions.

This includes advice on overcoming obstacles, setting financial goals, helping respondents choose a career path and encouraging them to finish their degree.

Fifty-five percent of those with a role model said the person they look up to motivated them to pursue higher education — and when things got tough and they wanted to quit, 55 percent said their role model encouraged them to continue their schooling.

And 86 percent said their role model encouraged them to be a lifelong learner.

Turns out, that’s an important part of being a role model: Three-quarters of those surveyed believe that young people’s perception of education is influenced by their role model.

While 78 percent believe young people are more likely to pursue higher education if their role model pursues it.

“At University of Phoenix the majority of our students are first-generation college students and many are also parents,” said John Woods, University of Phoenix’s provost. “For them, being a role model for their children is an important factor in wanting to pursue a college education. Earning their degree encourages future generations to build a legacy of education.”

The survey found that 81 percent believe it’s important for young people to have someone to look up to — and 56 percent of respondents believe they’re a role model for others.

The top ways they’re exhibiting the traits of a role model include making a difference in their local community (61 percent) and following their moral and ethical convictions (57 percent).

That was followed by working to achieve their personal goals, as well as continuous learning and upskilling (54 percent, each).

Seventy-eight percent of respondents believe that lifelong learning is important — and the top reason they believe that is because it allows them to be a positive role model for those around them.

“A role model inspires us to be better, do better and work hard to pursue our dreams,” said Provost Woods. “To be an effective role model to others, we must demonstrate a wonderment and passion for lifelong learning. Working on ourselves, by pursuing an education, striving to reach a goal or committing to learning something new every day, has a lasting effect on those around us.”


  1. Dad
  2. Mom
  3. Teacher/professor
  4. Celebrity (actor, athlete, etc.)
  5. Coach or other instructor (arts, music, etc.)
  6. Historical figure
  7. Manager/boss
  8. Pastor or youth leader
  9. Family friend
  10. Friend


• Never give in to critics
• Always be proud of who you are
• Be yourself and love yourself
• There will never be a shortcut to success
• Fight for your dreams
• Be loyal and honest
• Readers are leaders
• Set goals and follow them
• You are a product of what you think of yourself
• Facing obstacles makes your stronger
• Believe in yourself
• Always save for tomorrow
• Education is the best legacy
• We are built to learn
• Never give up on your dreams

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