The Rev. Billy Graham, on April 11, 1966. Image courtesy of the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared here, and is published here through a content-sharing agreement with The Charlotte Observer.

By Michael Gordon,

Tweet this: Billy Graham is the most popular man in North Carolina.

That’s the finding of a new poll that relied on Twitter to come up with the 14 finalists, which were then tested with voters by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh.

Graham, the 93-year-old evangelist and Charlotte native, was the top choice. His net favorability rating of plus 55 edged out Dean Smith (plus 50), Andy Griffith (plus 49), and Michael Jordan and Richard Petty (both at plus 45).

Wrestler Ric Flair of Charlotte came in last at minus 14.

The results might be more good medicine for Graham, who returned to his mountain home in Montreat on Tuesday after a weeklong hospital stay due to pneumonia. Graham was selected as the best known U.S. religious leader in a poll last month.

In the more recent findings, Graham tested well with Republicans, Democrats and Independents. He also did better than anyone else with both retirees and voters under 30.

Others listed on the popularity poll include:

UNC basketball coach Roy Williams, plus 36.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, plus 35.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, plus 28.

Singer Scotty McCreery, plus 28.

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., plus 22.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt and former UNC President Bill Friday, plus 15 percent.

Retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, plus 5.

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