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The 20 Most Popular People in the United States

The 20 Most Popular People in the United States

America’s obsession with celebrities is nothing new. Yet in an era of social media, viral moments and 24/7 connectivity, public figures wield more influence than ever before. Their words, actions, fashion choices and even tweets create ripple effects across society.

Popularity is about more than fame or celebrity status. It reflects deep resonance with what people care about—the causes that move them, the values they cherish. Politicians who tap into pressing social issues often enjoy high approval, regardless of partisan affiliation. Activists who speak truth to power also command large followings.

Of course, famous actors, musicians and athletes remain staples of public intrigue. Their movies, albums and sports heroics captivate millions. But today’s celebrities also raise their voices around injustice and endorse politicians and brands alike.

In shaping this ranked list, we considered multiple factors: social media followers, TV viewership and ratings, the number of search queries and news headlines over the past year, and the overall ability to drive conversations. The resulting list includes familiar faces like Joe Biden and Taylor Swift, along with rising political mavericks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

While popularity fluctuates from month to month, these 20 figures consistently find themselves in the spotlight—icons not just of politics or culture but of America itself.

1. Joe Biden

Joe Biden

As President of the United States, Joe Biden is the country’s most powerful and influential public figure. Since assuming office in January 2021, he has pushed landmark legislation around infrastructure spending and climate change through a polarized Congress.

While Biden’s approval rating has hovered in the low 40s amid economic concerns, he remains the face of America abroad and a key voice around the pandemic, the Ukraine war, gas prices and divisions within the Democratic Party. He continues to drive news cycles despite a low-key public profile. With a likely re-election bid in 2024, Biden retains significant sway over the direction of domestic and foreign policy.

2. Donald Trump

Even out of office, former President Donald Trump looms large in American life. He dominates right-wing media and headlines despite his ban from Twitter and other social platforms after the January 6 Capitol riots. Trump is now the first former president to face criminal charges, following the August 2022 FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago related to the improper storage of classified documents.

As the de facto leader of the Republican Party, Trump continues to shape primary contests and rally supporters behind election denialism and hardline immigration policies. His next steps remain unclear, but Trump’s outsize influence and highly vocal following ensure he stays obsessively front-of-mind for supporters and critics alike.

3. Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Millions now track Musk’s volatile decisions around content moderation and departure from Twitter’s existing remote work policies. Hero to some, villain to others—perhaps no ultra-wealthy tech titan triggers more debate about the role of billionaires in shaping communications platforms that influence society itself.

4. Taylor Swift

Music and celebrity icon Taylor Swift enters her third decade in the spotlight with new creative heights and public influence. Her intimate 2022 album Midnights smashed streaming records, fueled by TikTok trends surrounding the pop star’s self-described “3 a.m. thoughts.”

Yet the bigger story is Swift’s political evolution. Long silent, she now urges fans to vote and speak up for LGBTQ rights. On her Eras tour, Swift condemned ticket scalpers and created a lottery for fairer access—shared ideals that deepened her appeal. In an era of activism, Swift lends her voice to change.

5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The meteoric rise of “AOC” underscores a larger youth movement within the Democratic Party. As the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2018 at age 29, this Bronx native now commands outsize attention as a forceful progressive voice often at odds with Democratic leadership.

From student loan forgiveness to taxing billionaires and transitioning to renewable energy, Ocasio-Cortez marshals social media and a populist style to push big ideas matched only by her Republican critics. Her relatively low Congressional power belies an undeniable influence—especially among Millennial and Gen Z voters—in shaping national debates.

6. Rihanna

From music industry game-changer to fashion icon to billionaire entrepreneur, Robyn Rihanna Fenty holds elite status as a multidimensional pop culture phenomenon. She captivated audiences with her Super Bowl halftime performance after years away from live performances.

Rihanna also dominates business headlines for leveraging her musician-turned-mogul success into one of the most valuable beauty brands on earth. Her 50% stake in the cosmetics line Fenty Beauty is now worth $2.8 billion. Combined with her Savage X Fenty lingerie line and new Fenty perfume, Badgalriri remains a singular force across music, fashion and the boardroom.

7. LeBron James

NBA superstar LeBron James extends his reign as America’s most popular active athlete into a 20th season. His sustained dominance on the court defies aging curves: at 37, LeBron averaged 30 points per game in 2022, with trademark chase-down blocks and poster dunks akin to a 10-year-old version.

Yet his legacy now stems as much from off-court leadership as LeBron’s embrace of activism around racial injustice and voting rights resonates deeply after 2020’s racial justice protests galvanized athletes at all levels. As the NBA’s elder statesman, his voice booms loudly, whether demanding justice for police brutality victims or building up marginalized communities in Akron through his I PROMISE Foundation and related initiatives.

8. Oprah Winfrey

The power, prestige and impact of Oprah Winfrey span multiple generations. From pioneering talk show hosts to acting and film production to book clubs and podcasts, her brand commands unequaled influence across media.

Despite ending her 25-year syndicated show in 2011, Oprah expanded her broadcasting empire today through Apple TV+, inking a deal for Oprah to create shows exclusively for the streaming platform. Everything she touches turns into gold. With the 2022 release of Sidney, her Sidney Poitier documentary, Oprah Winfrey’s cultural cache at age 68 remains as potent as ever.

9. Beyoncé

Pop icon Beyoncé enters legendary status. 2022’s Renaissance album and world tour solidified her otherworldly talent, vocals and performance artistry across genres. Her elaborate concerts spur waves of internet frenzy and dialogue around fashion statements. Anthems of female empowerment permeate both music and Beyoncé’s active embrace of activism.

She amplifies calls for justice and equality while bringing African tradition to global fanfare. After shattering Grammy records, 2023 will cement her status as arguably the greatest entertainer of her era with more music and a rumored documentary. The “BeyHive” buzzes loudly.

10. Kevin McCarthy

The political chaos surrounding Republican Kevin McCarthy’s embattled House Speaker bid lays bare the party’s deep divisions after disappointing midterm results. Despite over a decade leading the House GOP caucus, hard-right dissent within McCarthy’s own ranks forced 15 failed votes before he finally claimed the gavel in January 2023.

This resistance showcases the rift between Trump loyalists and moderates within a still Trump-anchored party. How McCarthy navigates this conservative tightrope—pleasing far-right Freedom Caucus members without losing more bipartisan support—remains the biggest political quagmire of early 2023, with major implications for upcoming policy fights and the 2024 election.

11. Megan Markle

Few American celebrities spark more vitriolic debate than Meghan Markle. Her fairy tale romance, marriage and dramatic 2020 British royal exit with Prince Harry fueled relentless tabloid fodder and created divides between their defenders and detractors. Clear lines form behind claims of racism toward Markle versus her reputation among staff for bullying and power plays that eroded the beloved pair’s public appeal at home.

Nonetheless, Americans closely track this Hollywood actress who has exported onto the world stage and now speaks publicly about miscarriages, mental health and two young children with Prince Harry. Back on US soil, signing media and podcast deals, fascination with Markle’s post-royal second chapter has scarcely ebbed as her polarizing profile continues.

12. Trevor Noah

Rising from modest beginnings as the child of an interracial couple in apartheid South Africa, Trevor Noah escaped tragedy to helm America’s most influential nightly talk show. Audiences look to Noah as today’s definitive late-night source, blending news and comedy amid trying times.

As the current host of Comedy Central’s genre-defining “The Daily Show,” Noah tackled hosting duties in 2015 despite scarce name recognition. Eight years later, his poignant social commentary and earning the trust of millions with his cool and contemplative demeanor cement Trevor Noah as a unique voice in today’s cultural discourse.

13. Lil Baby

In an era favoring melodic rap and vulnerable lyricism, Dominique Armani Jones stands poised to claim rap’s center stage. Known professionally as Lil Baby, this 28-year-old Atlanta phenom echoes hardened experiences of systemic inequality through catchy beats and powerful music videos that transcend entertainment into artistry.

Lil Baby songs address violence and mass incarceration more imaginatively than any act today. He speaks and performs with an effortless swing and southern swagger that, along with his wider social conscience distinguishing him, suggests 2023 promises a long-overdue hip-hop king.

14. Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

Chart-topping pop icon Selena Gomez showcases impressive staying power across music, movies, celebrity influence and business ventures. Her openness in discussing bipolar diagnosis plus previous struggles with lupus resonates deeply with fans, alongside catchy breakup dance hits.

Gomez also enters content production through titles for Apple TV+ and Hulu based on elements of her personal life. Her Rare Beauty cosmetic line earns praise for highlighting inner beauty alongside mental health and suicide prevention resources. Enormously famous since childhood, Selena Gomez, at 30 years old, spotlights personal connections that enhance her crossover stardom.

15. Tim Cook

As CEO of tech juggernaut Apple, Tim Cook leads America’s most profitable company, helming world-shaping devices from the iPhone and iPad to AirPods and the Apple Watch. He assumed the role in 2011, shortly before co-founder Steve Jobs’ death.

While lacking the iconoclastic qualities of Jobs, Cook outpaced initial skepticism by spurring Apple to over $2 trillion in market value on the back of new subscription services and unprecedented profitability. Credited with mastering global supply chains, Cook took brave stances around user privacy and LGBTQ rights amid political pressure. His leadership leaves a profound impact on the tech landscape.

16. Nikole Hannah-Jones

Investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones burst onto America’s consciousness by finally putting words—”The”1619 Project”—to  the nation’s original sin of slavery and ongoing oppression toward Black Americans. Her New York Times piece and related Pulitzer Prize-winning commentary birthed a movement that historians and politicians argue over but educators increasingly embrace.

At just 45 years old, Hannah-Jones’ courage in challenging entrenched biases ensures her journalism will help properly reframe the treatment of race within classrooms for generations. Love her or hate her, Nikole Hannah-Jones provokes necessary national conversations on inequality and injustice that still demand addressing.

17. Tom Brady

NFL icon Tom Brady’s peerless 25 years of sustained excellence show no signs of fading, even as he enters his mid-40s. The larger-than-life quarterback captured a record seventh Super Bowl ring in 2021 before “retiring” 40 days later in February 2022. He quickly returned for his 23rd season.

Brady continues playing at an MVP level in Tampa Bay by leading the NFL in pass attempts and yards at age 45. His divorce from supermodel Gisele Bündchen after 13 years ensured relentless gossip column chatter. As the football goat chases his eighth title, Brady’s place among America’s most popular public figures appears just as engraved in stone.

18. Michelle Obama

America’s beloved former First Lady Michelle Obama carries significant cachet years removed from the White House. As an eloquent voice about women, racial barriers and overcoming adversity, Obama inspires millions, including 54% of American women.

Her headline-grabbing moments focus largely on education and moral clarity around voting rights. Recent political activity even stokes speculation around possible office runs, despite her stated disinterest. Through bestselling memoirs and charity work lifting disadvantaged youth in nutrition and academic development, Michelle Obama’s soaring popularity reflects model leadership.

19. Kim Kardashian

Reality television pioneer Kim Kardashian proves fame’s allure persists even after cameras stop rolling. Alongside sisters Khloe and Kourtney, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” captivated viewers for 14 years before ending in 2021 after 20 seasons. Yet Kim retains monumental influence in women’s fashion and cosmetic spheres, alongside celebrity headlines tracing her latest billionaire boyfriend and co-parenting tension with rap icon Kanye West.

For better or worse, Kim Kardashian reflecting cultural norms around body image, internet breaking and life lived lustily through a camera lens makes her an American institution. Recent forays into justice reform also showcase surprising complexity, bridging entertainment into activism.

20. Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis emerges as perhaps Donald Trump’s top rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The hard-charging DeSantis loudly opposes pandemic mandates, liberal immigration policies and what he derides as “woke” ideology seeping into education.

His firebrand style provokes intense loyalty and hatred equally. While Florida migratory flows and economic data suggest popularity at home, critics paint DeSantis as an authoritarian willing to attack civil rights to score political points. Presidential or not, this Republican darling and Fox News omnipresence signifies Trumpian values outliving Trump himself.

Takeaway

Measuring popularity reveals diverse figures capturing America’s curiosity through politics, culture and activism. Their influence stems from eloquently addressing issues that matter or simply dominating chatter for bold actions.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump clearly react to each other, defining the polarized political climate. Elon Musk dictates capitalist power dynamics through Twitter. Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lil Baby, Nikole Hannah-Jones and others shine lights, exposing societal blindspots that demand progress.

Ideological rivals like Kevin McCarthy and Ron DeSantis showcase enduring divisions. LeBron James and Michelle Obama emerge as moral voices for their stances beyond their stinting talents. Ultimately, America fixates on talented, principled leaders who are also willing—for better or worse—to leverage fame itself into greater platforms.

The figures above earned mass followings by tapping into societies’ unspoken, frequently ignored pains and hopes. They captivate audiences big and small through their triumphs, outspokenness and media mastery. As 2024 unfolds, their next acts will surely spark more debate en route to further celebrity and notoriety.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is considered the most popular person in the USA currently?

Based on influence across politics, culture and societal debates, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Taylor Swift, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rihanna and LeBron James rank as today’s most popular American public figures.

How much impact can popular figures have on culture?

Wildly popular cultural icons like Beyonce, athletes such as LeBron James and tech billionaire Elon Musk wield huge power in shaping thoughts, voter participation, fashion, and notions around ideal beauty or success. Politicians also leverage fame, like firebrand AOC, to promote their legislative agendas.

Do Americans care more about politicians or celebrities?

Americans obsess over both famous politicians and entertainment stars. Joe Biden and Donald Trump clearly capture the country as their respective current and former presidents. But music icons like Rihanna and Taylor Swift similarly drive culture through music activism or entrepreneurial endeavors that transcend singing and performing.

How did you compile this list of the most popular American figures?

We gauged popularity based on multiple factors: social media followers, TV viewership and ratings, Google search queries and news headlines over the past year, and their overall ability to drive conversations and coverage for their stances or work.

Is popularity based mainly on social media followers today?

While Twitter, Instagram and TikTok allow figures like Selena Gomez and Lil Baby to directly engage fans, traditional metrics like TV ratings and Google searches reveal enormous interest in names like Trevor Noah, Tom Brady and Michelle Obama, even with comparatively modest social media presences. Viral moments matter but are not established.


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