Gallup’s 2010 Ethics Poll: Little Trust Where We Need It Most

As it does periodically, Gallup has released the results of its surveys to determine what professions Americans regard as ethical, and which ones they don’t. Gallup notes that there has been very little change over the last two years; on its site, it compares the results to those of polls taken from 2004 to the present.

The professions that have positive ratings from the public are nurses, the military, pharmacists, grade school teachers, doctors, police, clergy, judges, and day care providers.

The rest are in the red, trust-wise, with TV and newspaper reporters coming in below auto mechanics and bankers, lawyers below them, business executives even below lawyers, and well below them, Congress, which comes in barely above car salesmen—and more people actually have a low opinion of Congress members than of car salesmen. Congress inches ahead because a larger number also think that members of Congress are ethical.

Probably federal workers…

Dead last are lobbyists, who bribe those unethical members of Congress, or so the public believes.

Which professional group has seen its reputation fall the farthest in recent years? Teachers, at minus 17%. It is a well-earned decline, especially if you include school administrators. Indeed, based on the many, many stories in the news of outrageously poor judgment by teachers and the schools they work for, I’d say that teachers are the most over-rated of all the professions on the ethics scale.

The group whose ratings with the public has risen the most? No surprise: the military, at plus 8% ; an appropriate result while we have soldiers dying in two wars. The surprise result is that lawyers have risen 4%. In comparison to everyone else, lawyers are starting to look trustworthy.

Still, Gallup’s poll shows a dangerous trust deficit in the areas that are most vital to preserving American ideals and our way of life: the law, the government, business, and journalism. It is the performance of these critical functions that determine whether democracy and capitalism can achieve a successful and just society, and they are losing the confidence of the public they are supposed to serve.Most of the professions in the positive column, in contrast, perform the same roles in essentially similar fashions in all nations: the clergy, nurses, soldiers, druggists.

Trust is failing where it is needed most.

The entire survey results, with Gallup’s commentary, is here.

7 thoughts on “Gallup’s 2010 Ethics Poll: Little Trust Where We Need It Most

  1. I’m sure if members of congress don’t like their result, they’ll just lump themselves in with the lawyers. Which, using that logic, is a pretty sweet deal for Ron Paul.

    • It’s cause and effect, that’s all. Read about how cognitive dissonance works in the “concepts” section. People admire the military for bravery and sacrifice, so they tend to raise their opinion of the military generally. That’s human nature—we trust people we like or admire for reasons having nothing to do with trust. That’s why friends are more likely to cheat us than enemies—we give them more opportunities.

      • The group whose ratings with the public has risen the most? No surprise: the military, at plus 8% ; an appropriate result while we have soldiers dying in two wars To me, it looks like you are using appropriate to make a value judgment. I understand that while we’re in wars, patriotism skyrockets and so does the opinion of the military. I don’t believe that is an appropriate result.

        • It doesn’t matter whether it is inappropriate or appropriate. It happens; it always happens; it always will happen. Cognitive dissonance has nothing to do with rationality.. You want to quibble about “appropriate”—fine. I think it is appropriate to trust those who are defending you, unless there is tangible reason not to. In any event, it’s not a critical adjective. I probably could have chosen a better word.

          • I didn’t say it’s inappropriate to trust people who are defending you. I also didn’t make a point on cognitive disonance and agreed with you on what actually occurs. Yes, I do seem to attack when I comment (“I agree” doesn’t add much to a blog), but I try to get your arguments right and try not to attack strawmen.

            I just think it’s inappropriate for one to change their belief in someone’s ethics based on what tasks they are currently involved in. In war and out of war, I would like to think that my opinion of military ethics is equal. I don’t think being sent overseas makes a man more ethical and being sent home makes a man less ethical.

            Now, if we heard about military scandals or extreme ethical actions while in war, that would make it appropriate to change ones opinions.

            Does that count as quibbling over the word appropriate or differentiating in what makes people more and less ethical?

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