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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.