Bad guy of 2006: President Bush. Good guy of 2006: President Bush. When people were asked in an AP-AOL News poll to name the villains and heroes of the year, Bush topped both lists, in a sign of these polarized times.
Among entertainment celebrities, Oprah Winfrey edged out Michael J. Fox as the best celebrity role model while Britney Spears outdistanced Paris Hilton as the worst.
Bush won the villain sweepstakes by a landslide, with one in four respondents putting him at the top of that bad-guy list. When people were asked to name the candidate for villain that first came to mind, Bush far outdistanced even Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader in hiding; and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is scheduled for execution.
The president was picked as hero of the year by a much smaller margin. In the poll, 13 percent named him as their favorite while 6 percent cited the troops in Iraq.
On the question of celebrity role models, a pop singer’s bad behavior claimed worst honors.
When asked to choose from a list of names, nearly three in 10 adults, or 29 percent, bestowed the honor of worst celebrity of the year on Spears.
The 25-year-old pop singer and mother of two young sons recently filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, her husband of two years. She then followed with highly publicized nights out with party girls Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, including photographic evidence of Spears wearing no underpants, which raised questions about her fitness as a parent.
Spears apologized on her Web site, saying she probably went “a little too far” with her newfound freedom.
Second-worst celebrity billing went to Hilton, 18 percent. The 25-year-old celebutante was arrested for drunken driving in Los Angeles in September while, she has said, she was on a late-night hamburger run.
Mel Gibson, 50, was third-worst celebrity with 12 percent, surely the result of his anti-Semitic tirade at police in Malibu, Calif., during his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. He later apologized and said he harbored no animosity toward Jews.
In the best celebrity role model category, 29 percent of adults chose talk-show host Winfrey.
The philanthropist and entertainment mogul contributed $40 million toward the establishment of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which is scheduled to open next month.
Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, finished second with 23 percent. He recently was criticized by conservatives for political ads that showed his body shaking as he urged support for a ballot measure promoting stem cell research and for the Democratic Senate candidate over the Republican.
Actor George Clooney, who’s been advocating for refugees in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan, finished third with 12 percent.
Eight percent chose Angelina Jolie over boyfriend Brad Pitt, 2 percent. Newlyweds Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes tied at 2 percent.
Rounding out the worst celebrity role model category were Cruise, 9 percent; former “Seinfeld” star Michael Richards, 6 percent; Nicole Richie, 5 percent; Federline, 4 percent; Lohan, 3 percent; and Jolie, 2 percent.
Jolie and Cruise were the only celebrities to land on both the best and worst lists. But more people named Jolie best celebrity role model, and more people named Cruise worst.
Bush was the choice of 43 percent of Democrats for villain, and 27 percent of Republicans for hero.
The telephone poll of 1,004 adults was conducted Dec. 19-21 by Ipsos, an international polling firm. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson and Associated Press writer Natasha Metzler contributed to this report.
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