The most trusted man in America (and an apology)

I think I will have disappointed many blog readers. The question about who was the most trusted man in America was not meant to be a trick one. I was just struck at the charity event, in the 10 seconds between when they said they had a clip from the most trusted man in America and when the clip started, by what an intersting question that was. I didn’t mean to imply that the answer they gave was suprising or counterintuitive.

In fact, the answer turns out to be far less interesting than even I had thought, because apparently the man in question, Walter Cronkite, is literally known as the “most trusted man in America” according to Wikipedia! Like most readers of this blog, I’m too young to know that.

You know a question is too easy when the very first person who answers it gets the right answer. So the winner is a reader who goes by the name “Amos Moses” (he has his own blog).

The othe 150+ respondents don’t win a prize, but did you did generate some interesting data. Other than Cronkite, the most common answers were:

Warren Buffett 8
Bill Gates 7
Jon Stewart 7
Oprah Winfrey 6
Alan Greenspan 4
Billy Graham 4
Colin Powell 4
Bill Clinton 4
Tom Hanks 3
Dr. Phil 3
Paul Harvey 3
Mister Rogers 3
George Bush 3
Homer Simpson 3

I’m not sure what, if anything, this list tells us about Freaknomics blog commenters or America more generally. Especially since the prize was only for the first person to list a name!

I find it interesting that religious/quasi-religious figures are mostly missing from the list except for Billy Graham. In general, I think of trustworthiness as being tied to having a strong moral code, which you expect religious leaders to have. I think most people deeply trust their own minister/priest/rabbbi. Very prominent religious leaders of late, however, do not seem to be generally seen as that trustworthy (take Ted Haggard for instance).

Gates and Buffett seem like reasonable choices because they have chosen to give so much money away. I wonder if Andrew Carnegie was seen the same way in his day?

I have to say that when I met Jon Stewart, I felt an immediate sense of trust in him and thought he would make a good president. I get that same sense from Barack Obama, but 100 times stronger. (Barack got 2 votes for most trustworthy.)

The name that popped into my head at that charity event was Jimmy Carter. I’m surprised he only got one vote.

Our promise to you: the next contest we run will have a more interesting answer.

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  1. Jun Okumura says:

    The relative lack of
    1) religious figures; and
    2) political figures (only the two most recent presidents, and not too many votes either); and
    the conspicuous presence of
    3) two philanthropic bajillionaires;
    4) three apolitical-liberal TV personalities (but no one from Fox News); and
    5) Homer Simpson
    suggest that Freakonomics bloggers are a bunch of secular, pro-market,inclusive folks with a powerful philanthropic streak. And pro-nuclear.

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  2. Jun Okumura says:

    The relative lack of
    1) religious figures; and
    2) political figures (only the two most recent presidents, and not too many votes either); and
    the conspicuous presence of
    3) two philanthropic bajillionaires;
    4) three apolitical-liberal TV personalities (but no one from Fox News); and
    5) Homer Simpson
    suggest that Freakonomics bloggers are a bunch of secular, pro-market,inclusive folks with a powerful philanthropic streak. And pro-nuclear.

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  3. jw says:

    I am not surprised at all that religious “leaders” don’t show up on the list.

    The best members of the clergy serve their local community and don’t seek national attention. I am not fond of Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jim Bakker, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or anyone that appears on the religious channel with goofy hair and too much make-up.

    As far as Obama, the guy is charismatic, a great speaker, and may very well be a 2008 presidential candidate. I know this board isn’t political, so at the risk of crossing the line, I will say his positions are diametrically opposed to everything I believe in, and I couldn’t support him.

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  4. jw says:

    I am not surprised at all that religious “leaders” don’t show up on the list.

    The best members of the clergy serve their local community and don’t seek national attention. I am not fond of Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jim Bakker, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or anyone that appears on the religious channel with goofy hair and too much make-up.

    As far as Obama, the guy is charismatic, a great speaker, and may very well be a 2008 presidential candidate. I know this board isn’t political, so at the risk of crossing the line, I will say his positions are diametrically opposed to everything I believe in, and I couldn’t support him.

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  5. Blazinsteve says:

    I think your right, Jon Stewart would make a good president. But I definatly agree that Obama would make a GREAT president (To any who read this: If Obama should run, don’t hesitate to vote for him.) Anyways, kudos on that thought, and don’t worry too much about the whole competition thing. I Googled it and found the same answer… it was a fun hunt though – that much I admit.

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  6. Blazinsteve says:

    I think your right, Jon Stewart would make a good president. But I definatly agree that Obama would make a GREAT president (To any who read this: If Obama should run, don’t hesitate to vote for him.) Anyways, kudos on that thought, and don’t worry too much about the whole competition thing. I Googled it and found the same answer… it was a fun hunt though – that much I admit.

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  7. Calpurnius says:

    If you’re too young to understand why Walter Cronkite came immediately to mind to many people, then you’re equally too young to understand why Jimmy Carter did not. The Carter presidency was not the same as the Habitat for Humanity reunion tour that followed his retirement from public office.

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  8. Calpurnius says:

    If you’re too young to understand why Walter Cronkite came immediately to mind to many people, then you’re equally too young to understand why Jimmy Carter did not. The Carter presidency was not the same as the Habitat for Humanity reunion tour that followed his retirement from public office.

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