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Harris Interactive has released a new poll saying that Google is now the company in America with the best reputation, displacing Microsoft from the top spot that it held a year ago.

Google went from fourth last year to the top spot, while Johnson & Johnson remained at number two, Intel went from 16 to three, General Mills went from six to four, and Kraft Foods was listed as five – and it didn’t even make the list a year ago.

Rounding out the top 10 were Berkshire Hathaway in sixth (it was 21 last year), 3M in seventh (three a year ago), Coca-Cola in eighth (five last year), Honda in ninth (14 last year) and, dropping from first to tenth, Microsoft.

Harris Interactive’s ninth annual Reputation Quotient survey polled thousands of Americans to determine the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in America for better or for worse.

Halliburton is the least-respected company on the list of 60 businesses, preceded by Altria Group, Royal Dutch/Shell, Chevron Texaco, Exxon Mobil, and Citgo.

However, seven out of 10 consumers told Harris Interactive that they believed America’ corporations have a “not good” or “terrible” reputation.

“Google is the perfect example showing reputation does not correlate with ad spending," Robert Fronk, Harris Interactive’s senior VP-senior consultant, reputation strategy, tells Advertising Age. "The positive perception of how you treat your employees, your corporate-social-responsibility efforts, and your products and services and the amount of media that can generate probably trumps any ad spend they would ever want to make."

KC's View:
Not surprising that the bottom of the list is occupied by oil companies, a cigarette company and a firm that has been accused of exploiting wars for profit.

Also pretty interesting that four of the companies in the top 10 sell products in supermarkets…it suggests that there is a reserve of good will there that CPG companies need to nurture and nourish, being careful not to abuse the good faith of shoppers.

I am intrigued about two rankings – Apple is just 19, which seems very low, and Starbucks is 32, which may reflect the seriousness of the marketing and performance issues that the company has been facing of late.