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Are Minnesotans honest? Not compared to other states


Minnesotans are among the least honest people in the nation – at least according to a recent social experiment dubbed the National Honesty Index.

For the experiment, beverage company Honest Tea set up unmanned tea stands in over 60 cities across all 50 states instructing patrons to pay $1 on the honor system for a cold beverage.

Some 95 percent of people nationwide paid their dollar, which is up from 92 percent last year. But in Minneapolis, which ranked 61st out of 62 cities, only 81 percent paid their dollar.

Only Providence, Rhode Island, ranked lower, at 80 percent honesty.

Honolulu ranked No. 1, with 100 percent of people paying their dollar, followed by Manchester (Connecticut), Lake George (New York), Nashville and Birmingham each at 99 percent. Click here for the complete list of city rankings.

The state of Minnesota ranked 50th out of 51 territories (every state plus the District of Columbia) with 85 percent. The state of Rhode Island came in at No. 51, with 83 percent honesty. Click here for a complete list of state rankings.

This experiment was first brewed up in 2009 with just one stand in San Francisco, and grew to 35 cities (none in Minnesota) in 2012. Last year, the company put kiosks in all 50 states – Minnesota tied for 20th with a 94 percent honesty rate, according to a company press release.

"Considering how divisive the national dialogue is, you'd think we were all a bunch of crooks," Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman told USA Today, referring to people in the public eye being viewed as dishonest. "But Americans are a lot more honest than we give ourselves credit for."

Although Minnesota may have not fared as well as other states, the experiment did bring out the "Minnesota nice" in some people. Goldman told USA Today a homeless man in Minneapolis studied the tea stand, then started to walk away because he didn't have any money. A woman then approached him and paid for his bottle of tea.

This was seen by Honest Tea monitors who watched over the tea stands, tracking who paid and who didn't. The monitors noted certain characteristics about who was the most honest and laid out the details in a nifty infographic (below).

Some highlights:

  • Women (95 percent) are more honest than men (93 percent).
  • Blondes are the most honest (95 percent) followed by brunettes (94 percent), those who are bald (94 percent), grey hair (93 percent), red hair (92 percent) and black hair (91 percent).

This year's experiment also had an online component, which increased the number of participants to 28,000, USA Today says. Using Facebook, people were given a free coupon for a bottle of Honest Tea, but were asked to post one of three inspirational quotes on their Facebook wall – 95 percent of the people shared a quote.

Using the online experiment, Honest Tea learned more about what honest people like. This is also detailed in the infographic below and on the National Honesty Index website.

Although the index ranks people in the U.S. based on this one instance of honesty, psychology experts told USA Today that just because someone is willing to pay for a drink doesn't mean they're honest, noting they could be dishonest in other areas of life.

Some people were creatively dishonest during this year's experiment. People put foreign currency, unused drink tickets and medicine bottle wrappers, among other things, in the cash box to look like they were making a payment, according to the index's website.

USA Today notes that one person even attempted to rob the cash box in San Diego, California, but the monitor stopped them. The money from the experiment will be donated to charity, Honest Tea says.

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