ROCHESTER, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Americans hated corporations just a little less in 2009 than they did in 2008, but regardless of Main Street's recent souring on Wall Street, the country loved Berkshire Hathaway(BRK.B) and Warren Buffett even a little more.
In a new Harris Interactive(HPOL) annual ranking of the corporations with the best reputation, 81% of survey respondents told the poll taker than the business world's reputation was "not good" or "terrible."
Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway beat out Johnson & Johnson(JNJ) for the top reputational spot among the 60 companies included in the Harris Interactive poll.
The other four companies in the upper echelon of business reputation were Google(GOOG), 3M(MMM), SC Johnson, and Intel(INTC). Privately held SC Johnson was the first company to debut among the top five in the annual Harris Interactive ranking since Google in 2005.
While Buffett bested Johnson & Johnson by 0.5 points of reputation, the biggest improvement in corporate reputation was made by Ford Motor Company(F). Ford jumped 11 places in the annual Harris Interactive ranking, the second-largest single-year increase in the poll's history.
The reputation was not so great for the rest of the big automakers. In fact, nine of the 10 worst reputation companies in the U.S. were recipients of government bailouts, including Chrysler and General Motors.
In dead last among reputation was Freddie Mac, which took the infamous spot from AIG(AIG), last year's "winner" of the worst reputation in the business world. AIG finished second-to-last. Freddie Mac had never been among the 60 most visible companies in America before its debut this year in last place. Freddie Mac and AIG were joined by Fannie Mae as the only three companies with a reputation score below 50. What's more, Freddie Mac's score was the lowest since Enron in 2005.
Another debut among the worst of the reputational lot was Goldman Sachs(GS), which barely edged above a score of 50 for its first appearance among the 60 most visible companies in America.
The 81% of poll respondents expressing continued bitterness towards business was down from 88% in last year's business reputation poll. However, the 81% was still the second-worst reputational ranking for corporate America, behind last year's 88%, since Harris Interactive began the poll.
In fact, the poll has always revealed a majority negative opinion on businesses. The lowest-ever percentage of survey respondents indicating that the business world's reputation was "not good" or "terrible" was 68% in 2002.
The more encouraging news for corporate America may be that there was a 50% increase in the number of Americans who said that the state of business reputation was "good", moving from 12% to 18% -- and it was the first such increase in four years, according to Harris Interactive.-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York
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