Tom Hanks Is Most Trusted American, Obama Far Behind

Actors top Reader's Digest list of most trusted persons.


Talk about celebrity culture. The most trusted person in America is – Tom Hanks!

This is the headline-grabbing conclusion of a Reader's Digest poll that also finds President Obama, supposedly one of the country's most charismatic figures, far behind many Hollywood celebrities and athletes at No. 65.

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Reader's Digest is getting lots of attention for its survey, conducted in conjunction with The Wagner Group, a research firm. The magazine says 1,000 Americans were questioned, and the goal was to discover "which individuals and the ideals they represent have earned our confidence." Details of the survey's methodology, however, are sketchy.

The editors of Reader's Digest place an "inspiring" quote alongside the name of each person listed among its 100 most trusted. President Obama's quote is, "A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things."

Tom Hanks attends the 2013 Tony Awards Meet the Nominees press reception on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, in New York.
Tom Hanks attends the 2013 Tony Awards Meet the Nominees press reception on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, in New York.

Hanks, the "most trusted" person in the survey, often plays likable characters from different walks of life. Among his films were "Big," "Cast Away," "Apollo 13," and "Saving Private Ryan." He won Academy Awards for "Philadelphia" and "Forrest Gump."

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Hanks addresses the pressing question of why he tops the list, and he seems comfortable with the outcome. "But look," he says, "I was born in 1956, the peak year for births in U.S. history. I think I'm very representative of many of the thought processes my generation have [sic] been through and, by and large, people of my age have had their imprint planted on the consciousness of western society for a long time."

Sandra Bullock, another actor, is No. 2. She says, "I've made mistakes, and I know why I made them but I made that choice. Nobody's ever made a choice for me."

Denzel Washington, still another actor, is No. 3. "At the end of the day, it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished. It's about what you've done with those accomplishments. It's about who you've lifted up, who you've made better. It's about what you've given back."

Meryl Streep, yes, another actor, is the fourth most trusted person. She says, "I have always regarded myself as the pillar of my life."

In the fifth spot is poet and Professor Maya Angelou, who says, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

Rounding out the top 10 are movie director Steven Spielberg, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and actor Julia Roberts.

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Actor-director Clint Eastwood is No. 13. Mehmet Oz, host of the "Doctor Oz Show" is 16th.

Michelle Obama is No. 19. Former President Jimmy Carter is 24th. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is 27th. Pro quarterback Tim Tebow is 40th, just ahead of former world heavyweight champion boxer Muhammad Ali at 41. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranks 51st.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.