2014.01.08 Who do you trust most? Tom Hanks or Pat Sajak?


Over the holidays, I had time to catch up on my backlog of unread magazines. Among them was an issue of Reader’s Digest from last summer which contained the results of a poll to discover “The Most Trusted People in America.” Some of them weren’t much of a surprise. Others made me wonder where the research firm found their “representative sample” of adults who answered the poll.

At first glance, I’d guess the pollsters were standing outside a movie multiplex. The person chosen as America’s most trusted was actor Tom Hanks. He certainly seems to be a nice guy, and I suppose fans of his could never picture Forrest Gump telling a lie. Hollywood had five more representatives in the list’s top ten, including Sandra Bullock at #2, Denzel Washington at #3, Meryl Streep at #4, Steven Spielberg at #6 and Julia Roberts at #10.

The first non-actor on the list was writer Maya Angelou at #5. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was well represented with Bill at #7 and Melinda at #9. The final member of the top ten, coming in at #8, was Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Should I have phrased that last sentence in the form of a question?

Three Nobel Prize winners (two chemists and an economist) held down spots 11, 14, and 15, becoming the first three people on the list I’ve never heard of. They surround “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts (#12) and actor/director Clint Eastwood (#13). Those five might comprise either a fascinating or excruciating group of dinner companions.

From then on, the list gets both more interesting and, at times, baffling. Television personality Ellen DeGeneres ranks at #18 on the list, beating out First Lady Michelle Obama at #19, former NFL coach Tony Dungy at #21 and former president Jimmy Carter at #24. I’m not sure Mr. Carter was thrilled by that ranking, but at least he outranked ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer (#25), and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (#27).

And then there’s #28. Of all the great legal minds in this country to choose from, those polled choose Judith Sheindlin, TV’s “Judge Judy,” as the most trusted judge. That had to be great news to Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the top-ranking “real” judge at #36, one spot behind actor Johnny Depp at #35. At least Justice Ginsburg edged out Joe Brown, host of “Judge Joe Brown,” who finished closely behind at #39.

Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer ranked 43rd, just one spot ahead of Chief Justice John Roberts at #44. Justice Anthony Kennedy came in at #49, followed by justices Samuel Alito at #60, Elena Kagan at #62, Antonin Scalia at #66, and Clarence Thomas at #88. At least they all beat TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw who barely made the top 100, ranking at #96.

Former secretaries of state had a so-so showing on the list with Madeleine Albright ranking highest at #23, followed by Colin Powell at #32 (one spot behind television “chef” Rachael Ray). Hillary Clinton (whose husband didn’t make the top 100) ranked 51st, followed by Condoleezza Rice at #68.

Along with Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, the NFL had three other current or former players on the list with Tim Tebow at #40, Eli Manning at #58 and Michael Strahan (now a talk show host) at #91. No one from the NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball made the list, although several other sports were represented.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali ranked #40 with wrestler/actor Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson at #54 and pro golfer Phil Mickelson right behind at #55. All of them were above Oprah Winfrey whose ranking of #59 was probably very embarrassing for her. She did beat Pat Sajak, who was #69. Sadly, Vanna White didn’t make the list.

You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned President Obama so far. He   made the list at #65, just one spot below actor Adam Sandler. Maybe they can do a movie together. Obama is also nineteen spots behind Whoopi Goldberg at #46 and forty-nine spots behind Mahmet Oz of “The Dr. Oz Show” at #16.

After the clumsy introduction of the Affordable Care website, I suspect that the President’s trustworthiness ranking, like his approval ranking, might nosedive if the poll was retaken. To avoid finishing below Toronto mayor Rob Ford in an updated poll, President Obama might be well advised to ask Tom Hanks for some pointers on being trustworthy. If Hanks doesn’t want to get involved, the President could always rent “Forrest Gump.”