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.