From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
It has been a year the fates colored too vividly, in which the mighty took humbling pratfalls and reckless gossip paled next to reality. We asked what you made of it all, and 1,000 readers came up with the answers. You told us, among other things, what God looks like, or doesn't, which public figures you wouldn't trust with the silver and what you think of nuts in cookies and elsewhere. Herewith our ninth annual poll, courtesy of Audits & Surveys Inc.

We begin with mistrust, since that's where your feelings appear to run deepest. Not since Watergate has your faith in the powers that be been so greatly disturbed. Small wonder, given all the shenanigans of late in the realms of the mighty and the Almighty.

Who disappointed you the most? we asked, helpfully providing a lineup of likely suspects and asking you to name the one you trust the least. A convincing plurality of you (41 percent) pointed the accusing finger at the PTL's Jim Bakker, alleged orgiast, sybarite and free spender. (But which was worse: his purported rape of the church secretary, his alleged homosexual advances or keeping his dog's house air-conditioned?) No wonder that, in response to another question, 41 percent of you who used to give money to TV evangelists said you wouldn't anymore. The coffers won't be empty, however. Fifty-four percent of previous donors said they would continue to support other TV evangelists; 16 percent plan to give even more. That's what we'd call faith.

The dubious distinction of being one step ahead of the Bakkers in credibility was shared by evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Lt. Col. Oliver North, each considered least trustworthy by 14 percent of the voters. Swaggart probably came in on the other Jim's coattails—he's the one Bakker accused of trying to take over the PTL. The votes for North apparently signaled your distaste for the diversion of funds from the Iran arms sale to Ollie's favorite Nicaraguan charity. (His faithful secretary, Fawn Hall, may have smuggled classified documents out of the Pentagon in her boots, but not even she could keep Congressional investigators away from his door.) To be fair, since our poll was taken before Ollie made his case on TV and millions of you had the man in your living rooms, we'd like to ask how you feel about him now. Ballots are at right, and we'll report the results in August.

There will be no second time around this year for Gary Hart, who withdrew his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination after that ill-advised Washington rendezvous with his onetime maritime companion, Donna Rice. Our readers rated him just ahead of North and Swaggart in trustworthiness and didn't share either his taste or Rice's in the opposite sex: Given the chance to jump in a hot tub for a heart-to-heart with Hart, only 16 percent of the women would go for it; only 3 percent of the men said they would like to simmer with Rice.

Forty-two percent of our readers assume that most American politicians have been unfaithful to their spouses, although two-thirds of you said you couldn't care less. In general your opinion of politicians, with or without strange bedfellows, has never been lower. For some of you, finding a President worthy of respect required either a long memory or a taste for nostalgia.

Who would you rate as the most outstanding recent President?

Of the last seven Chiefs of State, the winner was John F. Kennedy, with 44 percent of the vote. Ronald Reagan finished a respectable second with 29 percent; the other guys were hardly in the running. Men, women and teenagers preferred Kennedy to Reagan, who made it close only down South.

Who is your favorite among the recent First Ladies?

Though she hung up her pillbox 24 years ago, Jackie Kennedy Onassis squeaked into first place with 26 percent of the vote, a hair ahead of Nancy Reagan, who was two hairs ahead of Betty Ford. Readers under 35 think Nancy's the neatest; over 35, there's a dramatic switch to Mrs. Onassis.

Who are the most boring actor and actress on TV?

Yawn! Confronted with these two open-ended questions, half of our readers were struck dumb. The rest split along geographic lines. Deadpan Bob Newhart was rated top male bore in the East, while Don Johnson was biggest bore in the West. Overexposed Larry Hagman makes the Midwest think catnap, while Johnny Carson is the South's prime soporific. Asked about women, 28 percent of the readers were glad that Fox gave Joan Rivers the hook, and 21 percent, mostly women, have had it up to here with Vanna White. Joan Collins moved the excitement meter just a quiver higher.

Who is Alex P. Keaton? (We gave you some choices.)

Michael J. Fox must be bursting with pride. Two-thirds of you identified the feisty Alex as the character he plays on NBC's Family Ties. That's the kind of heavyweight IQ—identity quotient, in tube talk—on which sizable fortunes are built. Four percent of you thought Keaton was president of Harvard; another 44 percent figured him for Vanna White's boyfriend. To the 21 percent who thought he might be an undersecretary of state: sorry, no credit. Ten of you were quite sure he played shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds. That's silly, of course—shortstops don't have middle initials. Ever hear of Pee Wee P. Reese?

Does God look human?

Certainly does, said 55 percent of you. Not at all, maintained 27 percent. (We assume this question refers to God as you imagine Him, since there can't be this many unreported sightings.) Only 18 percent answered quite sensibly: Don't know.

Which do you find most objectionable in movies—blood, sex, nudity or rough language?

Sex and cussing are both part of the rich cinema experience, you seem to be telling us, but death and gore are something else. Only 29 percent of you are offended by frontal nudity or couples making love, and just 14 percent object to profanity. What you most dislike is graphic violence—40 percent said so. One out of four said they had no problem with any of these movie phenomena. Men and readers under 25 were most likely to wonder who cares.

If you were abducted by a UFO and got back to earth, would you tell people about it?

Stop the presses and slap me on the front page, said 74 percent of you. Heavens no, said 22 percent. The older you are, the more likely you would be to spill the intergalactic beans. Hey, has anybody heard from the gang in Cocoon!

All other things being equal, would you prefer to go out with a bald-headed man or one who was wearing a toupee?

Willard Scott, who goes both ways, has been waiting for the answer to this one. Seventy-two percent of the women queried said leave the rug home, guys; bald is better. The only dissenters are women under 25, who like their suitors hairy.

Who would you most like to share a hot tub with? (Choices provided.)

Thanks to male readers under 25, who are mad for her way with a vowel, sexy Vanna White was voted most tubbable by men. Men over 55 prefer second place winner Cybill Shepherd, perhaps for her superior conversational skills. (But do they know she's carrying twins? Kind of a crowd.) Next come Kathleen Turner and Brooke Shields.

Women put Don Johnson in first place, followed closely by Mark (PEOPLE'S Sexiest Man Alive, class of '86) Harmon, Mel (Sexiest in '85) Gibson, Sly Stallone and Bruce Springsteen. But what's this? Harry (Sexiest in '87) Hamlin coming in last? Yes, even after Gary Hart.

Should "raunch radio" shows, where performers use a lot of profanity, be banned?

By golly, yes, said 62 percent of the readers. Women were more insistent than men, and the chorus got louder among older readers.

Do you think AIDS is God's punishment for immoral behavior?

Certainly not, responded 68 percent, led by the college grads in their midst. On the other hand, 25 percent said yes. Seven percent—not those, presumably, who know what He looks like—wouldn't hazard a guess.

Compared to Ronald Reagan, do you think our next President will be more liberal or more conservative?

Readers pondered whether or not the political pendulum was about to swing from right to left and couldn't quite decide. The upshot: 39 percent guessed the next President would be more liberal, 30 percent more conservative. Twenty-four percent thought he—or she—would be about the same.

Will Fergie get pregnant this year?

Forty-six percent of the readers were optimistic about imminent motherhood for the Duchess of York. But when asked whether they cared, 91 percent did not.

Who do you like better, Fergie or Di?

All that titian hair and those friendly freckles aren't cutting any ice in Dicrazed America. Maybe, to us, royalty shouldn't look like the girl next door. Readers are faithful to the Princess of Wales and also think she's better looking, more motherly, and would make a better Queen. Hosannas for Di's beauty grow fainter as readers get older; younger readers tend to go for her glitz. Men show a stronger preference for Di, while women think the two are more evenly matched.

Which of the following over-40 celebs is best-looking?

We gave you a list, and Linda Evans was head, shoulders and bosom above the rest. Talk about enduring gorgeousness! Linda first took the best-looking title, no age handicap, in the 1983 poll, and she was already 40 then! (Don't sniffle, Elizabeth Taylor, you know the men always vote for the blonde. You did come in second, and you were tops with the 45-to-54 gang.)

Who is the sexiest woman in the world?

Women were so enthusiastic about the new, improved Elizabeth Taylor that they put her in first place, completely canceling out the men, who placed her near the bottom. Second-place honors will have to be divvied up among Linda Evans, Raquel Welch and Joan Collins. (Please, girls, no scratching and clawing.) The men, who may have filled out their ballots with assistance, voted first and foremost for their own wives and girlfriends, followed by Vanna White, Linda Evans and Cybill Shepherd. But hold on, guys, what's Dolly Parton doing down there in nowheresville?

Should chocolate chip cookies have nuts in them or just chips?

Nuts to nuts, said 63 percent of the readers, all purists.

If you could vote for America's national vegetable, what would be your first choice?

Figure-conscious women, effete Easterners and contrary Southerners stuffed the ballot boxes for broccoli (27 percent), but the mainstream Midwest came through for that old reliable, corn, the winner with 37 percent of the vote. (Could you imagine Iowa, the Broccoli State?)

Whose music is most likely to be popular 10 years from now? (Again, choices provided.)

Last year you named her most popular new face. Now Whitney Houston is looking good for the distance, as they say at the racetrack, with 40 percent of the vote. Beautiful, sexy, talented Whitney outclassed the closest competition by plenty. Huey Lewis was runner-up, with only 15 percent of the fans betting they'll be stuck on him come '97. The Beastie Boys and Run-D.M.C. got a real bum rap, ranking least likely in terms of survival.

Which recent celebrity marriage is least likely to last? (Choices provided.)

You haven't budged an inch since last year on this one. Sean Penn and Madonna got thumbs down from 61 percent of you, although, hey, they made it through the year, didn't they? Maybe her foundation garments held them together. John McEnroe and Tatum O'Neal were a distant second (as they should be, since Tatum is pregnant again) with 14 percent of the vote. Prince Andrew and Fergie still instill the most confidence: Only 3 percent of you think their union is doomed.

If you could be anybody Shirley MacLaine has been in a past life, who would you most like to be ?

You needed prompting, since you haven't all got around to reading her books. But once you had a clue, you came through: 46 percent of you would have stood in for Shirley during her life as one of the nation's founding fathers. Second best, you'd like to have been the one who could control the weather. Only 3 percent of you wanted to be the child who was flown to a pyramid by an eagle—and as for the 2 percent who wanted to be the French court jester beheaded by Louis XV, see your doctor.

If Ronald Reagan could run again for President, would you vote for him?

Sixty percent of you said no, the President is getting out while the getting is good. But there are pockets of support. He is better liked by men than by women, by the young than by the old, and in the South and Midwest better than on the coasts.

(Women only) Do you prefer men to wear Jockey shorts, boxers, bikini underwear or no underwear at all?

Jockey shorts have a leg up among all age groups. Bikinis rank second with women under 35, boxers with women who are eligible for the Presidency. A surprise: 15 percent of women between 18 and 24 prefer their guys completely sans skivvies.

What would you do if your spouse cheated on you? (Choices provided.)

Plenty of lively discussion here, but in the end forgiveness (40 percent) nosed out divorce (33 percent). Way down the list, in order, were getting revenge tit-for-tat, magnanimously shrugging off the adultery, and murder. A small, hot-blooded minority of under-25ers would be most likely to split or to reach for the nuclear missile over the fireplace; after 45, the blood seems to cool. Men would be twice as likely to ignore the offense as women (or so they say). Senior citizens would be most in favor of letting it pass.

Do you think George Bush is a wimp?

Fifty-five percent of you said Ron's right-hand man was okay, by George; only a third of you thought he was un-cool. That's good news for the Veep, who last year was picked by 22 percent as top choice for the White House in '88.

Do you care who wins the Oscars?

No, said 80 percent of you, apparently feeling that just sitting through the telecast is thrilling enough.

Do you care who wins the World Series or the Super Bowl?

A majority of the men said yes, but most of the women said no, possibly accompanied by a stamp of the foot.

Would you eat meat if it meant you had to kill the animal yourself?

Under the impression, perhaps, that it wouldn't take much gumption to slaughter a small ground-beef patty, 72 percent of the men would kill for a hamburger. Sixty-three percent of the women would not.

Who is your favorite female TV star?

With 16 percent of the vote (most of it from men), Cybill Shepherd gave Linda Evans the elbow this year and rammed her into second place, with 9 percent of the vote. Far back, there's Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show, then a tie between Angela Lansbury, a newcomer to the Top 5, and Joan Collins, whose star is somewhat tarnished of late.

Who is your favorite female movie star?

Maybe Heartburn bombed as art, but our poll shows that Meryl Streep is loved even as a brunette, especially by women. The guys prefer seethingly sexy Kathleen Turner and boosted her into second place. Third's for you, Jane Fonda. Hang it up, Molly Ringwald, you came in a distant 12th.

Who is your favorite male movie star?

Paul Newman turned venerable this year in The Color of Money and, ringingly endorsed by readers over 35, took top honors here for an unparalleled fourth time. Tom Cruise and Eddie Murphy shared second place. Next came Robert Redford and Mel Gibson. In spite of a few palpable heartbeats from women over 35, Aussie cutie Paul Hogan ranked with the crocodiles.

How much more money would you have to make a year than you make now to live really comfortably?

You're not a greedy bunch, really; you thought a median amount of $22,650 would about do it. Folks under 25, singles and Southerners asked for the smallest bonus, under $2000. But readers between 35 and 44 thought $50,000 extra would help support the kids, houses, cars and Baby Boom life-style. How come only 5 percent of you asked for a million bucks more? Lighten up! It doesn't cost a nickel to dream.

Do you think surrogate motherhood should be outlawed?

Despite the unseemly custody battle over Baby M, 56 percent of you believe surrogate mothering should be perfectly legal. Only 35 percent think there oughtta be a law against it.

Who would you least like to be trapped in an elevator with? (Choices provided.)

This is shocking. You'd rather be sequestered with gross-out rocker Ozzy Osbourne than evangelist Jerry Falwell. Twenty-three percent of you said no thanks to the preacher's company even if he showed amazing grace under pressure. Second least attractive lift-mate: Howard Cosell. Nobody wants to get stuck with someone that chatty, which may explain why Joan Rivers also made the list, virtually tied with Osbourne for third place.

Is it unpatriotic for an American to buy a Japanese car?

No, said a resounding 72 percent of the readers. The most reluctant to buy Japanese were readers over 55, who remember World War II.

What do you think is our most serious national problem? (Choices provided.)

AIDS is the worst, said 38 percent of you, although 85 percent don't know a victim personally. Homelessness was second, with 26 percent of the vote. Then it was arms control, the national deficit and racism.

Would you invite an AIDS patient to dinner in your home ?

The fatal disease seems scarier than ever. This year 51 percent of you said you would open your home to an AIDS patient. Last year people were less wary: 60 percent said they'd allow a son or daughter to attend class with a child with AIDS. Readers under 25 and over 55 are least likely to host an AIDS patient; people with more education find the invitation easier to extend.

Who is your favorite male TV star?

For the second year in a row, it's lovable Bill Cosby, followed once again by adorable Tom Selleck—even if he does have sort of a funny voice. Bruce Willis and Michael J. Fox edged ahead of Don Johnson, last year's third-place finisher. Deeper meaning: Going sockless is out.

Who is the sexiest man in the world?

No hesitation here, and no gender gap. Men and women agreed on Tom Selleck, who captured the fancy of 19 percent of the readers. After Selleck, enough women mentioned their own husbands and lovers to put those special guys in second place. Only after that would readers settle for Paul Newman, Robert Redford or Don Johnson, all tied for third.

Do you think your parents did a good job of raising you?

Parents of America, take heart. A walloping 93 percent of our readers are happy with their upbringing. The highest-ranked parents live in the Midwest, the lowest in the West, where a lot of people may be paying the price for giving their kids names like Moonbeam or All-Bran.

If somebody offered you $3 million with the condition that you could never have sex again, would you take the money and give up sex?

Negative, negative! It's lust and go bust, said a red-blooded 61 percent. Not until age 55 do priorities shift, and even in that age group, nearly a third would pass up the money for the honey.

Whom would you most like to see replace Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune?

We confess we only gave you three choices, and of those, stylish Fawn Hall, the world's most faithful assistant, won with 36 percent of the vote. Donna Rice was a close second, and the PTL's Other Woman, Jessica Hahn, came in third.

Which national American politician would you least like to see naked?

Keep your shirt on, Ronald Reagan—and your tie, suit and shoes, too: 37 percent of you don't want to see one more bit of the First Body. Way behind, though still a contender, is the charming but overlarge Tip O'Neill. George Bush ranks third, and, oh, what an ego boost for Henry Kissinger: Readers would rather see him in the buff than Gary Hart, Ted Kennedy or Jesse Jackson. Amazingly, only 14 percent of you were turned off by the whole idea.