Here are the most and least trusted professions in the US | The Hill


Maybe it’s something about the Hippocratic Oath: Doctors, nurses and pharmacists rate highest for honesty and ethics among 18 common professions in the latest version of a long-running Gallup poll.  

And maybe it’s something about the sanctity of the dinner hour: Telemarketers rate lowest in the Gallup ethics survey, followed by members of Congress and sellers of cars.  

Gallup pollsters have been measuring public sensibilities about honesty and ethics in archetypal American professions since 1976. Some jobs, such as business executive and journalist, have appeared in almost every annual poll. Others come and go from the list.  

In the latest poll, released this month, 79 percent of Americans rated nurses “high” or “very high” in honesty and ethical standards. Nurses have topped the Gallup poll regularly since their first appearance in the survey in 1999. 

“Nurses are there when you’re born, nurses are there when you die, and everywhere in between,” said Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, president of the American Nurses Association. “Individually and collectively, we’re making a difference in people’s lives in the worst and the best times.” 

In terms of public trust, no other profession came close. Medical doctors and pharmacists ranked second and third on the Gallup poll, with 62 percent and 58 percent of U.S. adults, respectively, rating them high in ethics. 

From there, the drop-off in ethical esteem was swift. A majority of Americans delivered high marks to only one other profession: high-school teacher. 

At the other end of the ethical spectrum, only 6 percent of respondents gave high marks to telemarketers, while 59 percent rated the ethics of telephone salespeople as “low” or “very low.” The survey did not distinguish between actual telemarketers and the recorded voices that often speak in their stead. 

Nine percent of Americans praised the ethics of Congress, whose members fared only slightly better in the survey than care salespeople. 

Brian Baird, a psychologist and former Democratic congressman from Washington State, said the news media deserves a measure of blame for the public’s antipathy toward federal lawmakers. He cited the wealth of recent press coverage directed at George Santos, the newly elected congressman from New York whose own ethics have come under withering fire following revelations that he fabricated parts of his background.  

 “And if the standout story is George Santos,” Baird said, “then you don’t have a story about, ‘Representative X went to work, met with constituents, studied the issues.’ How often do you see a story that makes national news about a member of Congress who does something good?” 

Journalists, for their part, fared only slightly better than congresspeople in the Gallup poll. Twenty-three percent of respondents rated them high in honesty and ethics.  

Republicans took a particularly dim view of the fourth estate. Only nine percent of Republicans rated the press high in ethics, compared to 41 percent of Democrats.  

To Democrats, journalists are a bit more trustworthy than accountants, but not quite so estimable as judges. Republicans, by contrast, have come to view the mainstream press as irredeemably liberal. Openly conservative websites for Fox News and the New York Post rank among the nation’s most popular news sources. 

Gallup has measured professional ethics for so many years that its poll numbers document societal shifts across multiple generations of the American public.  

Consider the clergy. In 1977, 61 percent of Americans praised the ethics of the clerical community. The figure dropped steadily during the 2000s and 2010s amid an ongoing sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. In 2022, only 34 percent of the public rated clergy high on ethics.  

Public support for members of Congress peaked in late 2001, just after the 9-11 terror attacks, when fully one-quarter of the public rated them high on honesty and ethics. In the years since, the number has slipped into single digits. 

Journalists rated relatively high on the Gallup survey in the mid-70s, soon after the Watergate scandal, a high-water mark for public opinion about the value of the press. Their current 23-percent approval rating is one of the lowest the pollster has measured. 


2022 midterm elections

Brian Baird

George Santos

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