Aaron Rodgers as Popular as Jesus?

Tim Tebow may have captured the nation’s attention on the football field, but a new poll suggests that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the most popular public figure in the U.S. – ranking behind only Abraham Lincoln and Jesus.

A recent survey by Public Policy Polling found that 89 percent of voters in Wisconsin had a favorable view of the young quarterback – the highest approval rating found in any poll conducted by the organization. The pollsters then pitted Rodgers against others with universal appeal.

The resulting survey found that only Abraham Lincoln and Jesus are more popular than Aaron Rodgers in the U.S., with 91 and 90 percent approval ratings respectively.

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The results are not surprising, according to Ryan Weyls, a music, sports and literature writer and contributor to the OC Weekly and Village Voice.

“They represent our aspirations,” Weyls said of professional athletes. “We Americans love our underdogs. What else is a 25-year-old guy from a working class background who becomes an NFL quarterback? He’s Rocky Balboa in the flesh.”

Rodgers rounding out the top three may come as a surprise to some, but it also could reflect the values of the U.S. public.

“Maybe it’s not a terrible thing, a quarterback being as popular as Jesus and Abraham Lincoln,” Weyls said. “It doesn’t automatically mean that Americans are immature or apathetic. It might say that Americans value decisiveness and leadership, because good quarterbacks are not shiftless people who dither around or collapse under pressure.”

But Rodgers’ place in the top three is likely to disappear over time.

“The public isn’t responding to Rodgers the individual as much as his skills as a quarterback, which will eventually fade,” Weyls said. “It takes a hugely influential figure, a Lincoln or a Jesus, to stay resonant for hundreds or thousands of years. Athletes leave the public imagination once they fade out or retire.”

Rodgers in 2011, however, is more popular than George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Santa Claus, according to the poll.

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