A new poll suggests that National Leader John Key may be up against a bigger obstacle than he thought in knocking Prime Minister Helen Clark off she is the person New Zealanders most admire after Sir Edmund Hillary.
The much-loved mountaineer topped the Roy Morgan Poll with 17.4 per cent support, followed by Clark on 15.1 per cent.
Key was a long way behind in third place on 4.5 per cent. However, he could take some comfort in the fact he was just ahead of the revered South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela (4.4 per cent).
Sports stars figured heavily in the list of people New Zealanders admired. After Mandela, the next most admired were Winston Peters (2.9 per cent), Tana Umaga (2.4 per cent), the Queen (2.2 per cent), Richie McCaw (2.2 per cent), Sir Peter Blake (2 per cent) and John Campbell (1.7 per cent).
The research company's poll, taken in December and January, is at odds with preferred prime minister rankings which by the same time were showing Key ahead.
But Roy Morgan head of New Zealand operations Paul Epplett said admiring someone and wanting them to lead the country were not necessarily the same thing. "Helen Clark has been in the public eye for a long time," he said.
One distressing aspect of the poll was that 42 per cent of those surveyed couldn't name anyone they admired. The survey was of 11,732 people aged 14.
The most admired sportspeople were Umaga, McCaw, Blake, Sarah Ulmer, Graham Henry, Colin Meads, Dan Carter, Marc Ellis, Irene van Dyk and Grant Dalton.
The most admired politicians were Clark, Key, Mandela, Peters, Tim Shadbolt, Dame Silvia Cartwright, Pita Sharples, Jeanette Fitzsimons, David Lange and Mahatma Gandhi.
The most admired entertainers were Campbell, Peter Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Judy Bailey, Suzanne Paul, Kiri Te Kanawa, Paul Henry, Paul Holmes, Bono and Brooke Fraser