Gallup’s just released annual survey of public attitudes toward various professions held few surprises this year. As has been the case for over a decade,nurses and pharmacists topped the list as the professions regarded as the most honest and ethical. I find the presence of high school teachers fourth (ahead of police officers) a triumph of public relations, nostalgia and wishful thinking, but the other top rated professions were predictable. In general, the professions we are forced to depend upon the most are the ones we trust the most—because we have little choice. The ones we trust the least tend to be those with whom we can be in conflict with or see as having differing interests from our own. Doctors are always going to rank higher than lawyers, for example, because there are no doctors trying to make us sick.
Of the 21 professions in the survey, only seven—including funeral directors!—had positive numbers, meaning that more people regarded them as ethical than unethical. The seriously distrusted professions, with a percentage of very low ratings significantly higher than the proportion of very high ratings, begins with lawyers, business executives, union leaders, stock brokers, and advertising execs in order of trustworthiness; bankers, interestingly, avoided this group and had about as many supporters as detractors. But the bottom four is where the really dishonest professionals dwell, according to the poll. With single digit positive ratings compared to negative ratings of more than 50% are telemarketers, car salesmen, lobbyists, and at the very bottom, Congress, with 64% of the public regarding the institution as dishonest and unethical. That, Gallup says, is not only the lowest rating for Congress since the survey has been taken; it is the worst rating for any profession.
That Congress has sunk so far is not a surprise. It is just depressing.
Here are the results: