Read It And Weep: The Reader’s Digest 100 Most Trusted Americans

Here are the results of a Reader’s Digest poll of “over a thousand” citizens to determine who Americans trust, ranked #1 through #100.

A few observations:

1. I want to kill myself.

2. The first four people on the list are movie actors, about whose true character Americans know next to nothing.

3. I refuse to believe that a significant number of those polled knew the high-ranking medical researchers and prize-winning economists by name, and if they did, they were only vaguely familiar with their work, not their character.

4. The fact that Dr. Oz is in the top 20 is frightening. In fact, the predominance of TV medical personalities generally is frightening.

5. Noam Chomsky???


7. No news media personality belongs within the first 1000….especially Brian Williams, who cracks the top 30.

8. Judge Judy outranked Justice Ginsberg


10. OK, quick, now: how many of you believe that the average American has any idea who Rabbi Arthur Schneier is? Was the sample 1000 randomly chosen NBC-watching liberal Jewish MD economists?

11. Hillary Clinton is #51. They must be using a definition of “trust” that I am unfamiliar with.

12. Adam Sandler appears before any elected official, including President Obama

13. Pat Sajak, Steve Harvey and Alex Trabeck—game show hosts— rank higher than any elected official other than the President…

14. ..because no other elected official makes the list at all!

15. Dr. Phil, a fake doctor, makes the list.


  • If the list is accurate, we’re doomed.
  • It’s an incredible survey, and not to be believed.

43 thoughts on “Read It And Weep: The Reader’s Digest 100 Most Trusted Americans

  1. Cheer up, Jack. This survey was probably conducted among Occupy deadbeats, Code Pink activists and student debt defaulters at Columbia University. Who else would even know about Noam Chompsky?

          • Yes, but his landmark and brilliant work in linguistics/philosophy has nothing to do with his fame. Chomsky is to US political history what Jonas Salk was to nutrition.

            • I think it has something to do with his fame. I learned about Chomsky in multiple college classes, and the only references to his horrible beliefs were cursory declamations. I had to read up on him outside of class to even learn why those were necessary. That might actually explain his position on the list.

              Despite SMP’s ad hominem attack, lots of people know who Chomsky is without being indoctrinated into his beliefs.

                • You’re saying it’s only plausible that people know and trust Chomsky from his anarchy, and that it’s not plausible that they know him from his contributions to linguistics that are taught in even low level philosophy, sociology, and computer science courses? I can’t agree with that.

                  • You can’t? In a thousand randomly chosen people, how many of them are likely to be able to name a single linguist? My guess is none, and if they know Chomsky, the odds are that they don’t know he’s one. And surely you don’t think he was offered as a choice by RD because of his work in linguistics!

                    • This wasn’t free response of linguists. Given the name, I do think it’s plausible that college educated people would recognize him as a linguist.

                      Whatever reason he was chosen by Readers Digest is irrelevant.

                  • That is correct, and keep in mind I have heard him speak about linguistics and studied his theories on universal grammar. But my first contact with Chomsky was in high school reading ‘Manufacturing Consent’.

                    A quick amazon search of ‘Chomsky’ sorted by relevance does not turn up a book by him about language until #6, for what it’s worth.

  2. I’m laughing now because I had not read your entire post when I commented.
    Americans really have reached an all new level of stupidity.
    I’m ashamed of them.

  3. My grandparents read RD regularly when I was a kid. Our favorite page each month: Laughter is the Best Medicine. Perhaps this list was intended for that column and was misplaced?

    • Good theory, Lorraine! But I hold little value to any poll conducted with “over a thousand citizens” on ANY subject, regardless on how they were chosen. Apparently, another old prediction from MAD magazine has come true. Reader’s Digest has devolved into “Reader’s Digress”!

      • No, there are a few others. Dr. Oz’s inclusion, for instance, is quite believable (his success with a show centering around his medical advice should indicate that he *is* de facto trusted), independent of the question of whether or not he *should be* trusted (the fact that he’s won more Pigasus Awards than literally anyone else should, however, answer *that*).

  4. All I can say, Jack, is something told me by one of my favorite HS English teachers: “Don’t forget, half the world’s below the fiftieth percentile.”

  5. Jack,
    A hoot of a column, thanks.

    If I can be serious about it for a second, though, it is telling. As a student of trust for 15 years now, I can say there are few words with more meanings than ‘trust.’ When people use it without any qualification or reference, as was apparently done here, you get GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.

    The question “who do you trust?” is nonsense without including the answer to “to do what?” I trust my dog with my life – but not with my roast beef sandwich.

    That’s just one example. When the PR firm Edelman first started trying to measure impact on the internet (pre-KLOUT), they came up with a metric that consisted of four parts, one of which was trust. Guess who the leader was? Justin Bieber.

    Again – if you ask an unbounded question, what you get back is essentially a Rorschach test of whatever the questionee happens to be thinking about at the moment. It has about as much meaning as a fart in a hurricane.

  6. That was my reaction when I first saw it, Jack, and I almost sent you a link to it and then didn’t, figuring that you’d find it on your own.

    I did a bit of digging and determined that it’s a bogus survey. These are NOT unaided answers, which would have far more credibility. In fact, what Readers’ Digest did was create a list of 200 “famous” people and got their survey respondents to rate trustworthiness amongst those 200.

    Now, the 100 that DIDN’T rank below 101 would be interesting to see, and certainly the list as presented is depressing enough. But I wouldn’t put a lot of credence into it. My guess is that the rankings are based as much on name recognition as anything else, just like our elected officials.

    Come to think of it, it IS depressing.

  7. Well, game show hosts have to be polite and neutral on camera. They have to play by the show’s rules and be quick to correct the situation if they make a mistake. Through sheer exposure to people and knowledge of all types and have to learn just from exposure. Doesn’t that place them above many other famous people already? 🙂

    • They may be trustworthy game show hosts. That doesn’t make them trustworthy. I’d trust Hillary Clinton to be a fair game show host. Unless the list means “trust in their character.” then it’s an absurd apples, oranges and doorhinges comparison.

      • Actually, I’ve read some quite interesting articles online by Pat Sajak. He’s a pretty articulate guy, with a fairly level head on his shoulders. Plus, anyone that takes time to perform on stage instead of sitting comfortably in one medium gets a point or two in my book.

        But you’re right, no one who voted knew anything about any of that – he was voted for his ability to spin that wheel.

        • He’s a smart guy. He might be the second coming of Thoreau. He also may have dead kind stuffed in a crawl space like John Wayne Gacy. We have no basis to on which to say “he’s trustworthy.” And does he ever spin the wheel himself? Usually its the contestants.

  8. Noam Chomsky, while a brillaint man, seems to be one of those brilliant men that totally ignores the very strong possibilty that on the way to revolution that he desires he is going to end up in a ditch some place.

  9. “1. I want to kill myself.”
    This stupid, stupid list, which reads like a poll of mentally deficit eleven-year-olds, combined with the lack of media coverage / White house response on the latest Benghazi hearing is driving me to the point of another self-imposed media ban.

    I just can’t believe that Americans can be so damn ignorant.

  10. It is clear that the morons who still read “Reader’s Digest” just picked out the names they knew the best, without knowledge of who they really were. Noam Chomsky is a puzzlement; but I’d put Adam Sandler above Obama any day of the week.

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