NZ trusts men in uniform eating chocolate

Every publication has to have one.

Newspapers and television stations have political polls, the National Business Review has the Rich List, the Listener has the Power List and now there's Reader's Digest with its Most Trusted Survey.

The popularity of the NBR list is understandable enough - it's driven partly by envy, partly by secret admiration.

We just love reading about those who've made heaps of money and learning how they've done it.

The Listener Power List is a designer accessory, the function of which is to make the magazine appear more substantial and important than it actually is. Power by association, which is astute marketing because much as we like money we also like to know who the great movers and shakers of the small world we live in are - and to argue the toss over their relative merits.

Then there are newspapers and television with their political polls which, if you were to believe the Reader's Digest Most Trusted list, you wouldn't give the time of day.

After all, it's a poll of politicians (39th least trusted of 40 listed occupations) published by journalists - who come in at 34th, an inch ahead of astrologers, real estate agents, sex workers, car salesmen, the aforementioned politicians and telemarketers.

Not exactly a swooning recommendation.

But then perhaps such surveys aren't either.

Reader's Digest commissioned an independent research firm to survey a representative sample of 500 New Zealand adults.

Let's just hope they didn't do it by phone - because we now know, that as trust goes, you can't go any lower than telemarketing.

The Most Trusted survey asked respondents about three categories: individuals, professions and brands.

Top of the list of most trusted individuals, replacing Sir Edmund Hillary, is Corporal William Apiata of Victoria Cross fame.

Hard on his heels is Peter Snell, athlete, followed by Colin Meads and six other sports people in the top ten.

The sporting monopoly is broken only by children's author Margaret Mahy and celebrity cookery writer Alison Holst.

Good old sure-to-rise herself.

Cuddly filmmaker Peter Jackson is right up there at 14, while Queen Elizabeth ties with Richie McCaw at 20th equal just ahead of food-in-a-minute merchant Allyson Gofton and Hayley Westenra.

At number 50, the top legal bod in the state bureaucracy, solicitor-general David Collins, must be wondering where he went wrong.

Still, he's a couple of places ahead of Mr Pip author Lloyd Jones (there's something slightly dodgy about writers, don't you think?) who can console himself being four places ahead of his brother, Sir Bob (property investment has gone off the boil).

That's the thing about lists like this; there's always someone worse off than you, so Helen Clark, despite the terrible poll results - that none of us henceforth is going to take any notice of for the aforementioned reasons - can take comfort from the fact that at 66 she beats David Bain (67), John Key (68), Pita Sharples (75) and Winston Peters (77).

Unless of course you are number 85 on a list of 85, in which case the revelation that convicted murderer Scott Watson (84) and Maori activist Tame Iti (83) are more trusted must come as a sobering revelation to someone like former assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards.

Firefighters, ambulance officers and pilots are our most trusted professionals, while judges, at 10, just edge out dentists and police officers at 11th equal.

Lawyers hold their own with bartenders at 27th equal and then we're almost into the dregs - you know, ratbags such as journalists, sex workers, and car salesmen.

It's when we come to the brands section of the survey that we begin to complete the picture of the Reader's Digest composite personality.

We already know soldiers and sports people are rated most highly trusted, followed by celebrity chefs.

Firefighters and ambulance drivers and pilots are right up there.

Now add in the brands: Cadbury is tops followed by Tip Top, then Fisher and Paykel, Panadol and Sony just ahead of Heinz Watties, Sanitarium, Griffins, Nestle and Colgate.

Conjures up quite a picture: we trust (and like) men in uniform, sportsmen and women, and plain good old-fashioned food prepared very quickly (combining the best attributes of Holst and Gofton), which could involve variations on a theme of Weetbix, baked beans, Griffins biscuits, chocolate and a good helping of ice cream softened in the Sony microwave washed down by a cup of Nestle drinking chocolate.

The dishes will be placed in the Fisher and Paykel dishwasher.

And before venturing out you will probably brush your teeth with Colgate toothpaste.

Oh, and if it's all too much and you can feel a headache coming on, a couple of tabs of Panadol - trust me, I'm a journalist - will do the trick just nicely.

Simon Cunliffe is assistant editor at the Otago Daily Times.