I’ve been following the Gallup organization’s yearly polls on public attitudes toward institutions and occupations for a long time. The results are in for 2017. I’ll discuss the ethics implication of the Gallup occupations poll first; Part 2 will cover the institutions.
The occupations poll tends to fluctuate more year to year, and is most interesting as viewed a competition. Who are most trusted and regarded as most honest? Who are least trusted? Nurses have been ranked #1 in public trust for 16 straight years. I guess this means not too many people watch “Nurse Jackie.” I assume the consistently high rating is because we tend to trust people we have to trust, thus confirmation bias, and because there haven’t been any major nursing scandals or “Angels of Death” in the news. As you will see from the chart, medical doctors are trusted much less. I think that’s the result of an illusion.
Only six professions rate as more than 50% “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards: nurses, military officers, grade school teachers, medical doctors, police officers and pharmacists. The honesty rating of pharmacists dropped five points since 2016, however, and it an occupation that has sometimes finished right behind the nurses. Gallup guesses that the opioid crisis is to blame, and maybe that’s right, though I would think the doctors who prescribe the drugs are more to blame then the druggists who sell them.
Public views of the clergy have fallen like a Chinese space station. Before the Catholic Church child molesting scandal in 2001, the clergy was very trusted at the high 60% level. Now it is all the way down to 42%, though the total of high trust and average trust is still 85%. I think the film “Spotlight” hurt, as it should have.
Occupations that I would regard as having positive public trust include those whose high trust+average scores are higher than their low trust+average scores. That group, in addition to the occupations already named above, includes day care providers, judges, auto mechanics, nursing home operators and bankers. I think in all of these cases, the public has no real idea about how trustworthy these occupations really are. We just hope they are trustworthy, so again, we have a result that is polluted by wishful thinking. These people are entrusted with the welfare of our children, our cars, our parents and our money, plus the justice system. They better be trustworthy. Ignorance is bliss.
I confess amazement that Wells Fargo scandal didn’t result in lowered trust for bankers.
The remaining occupations are all, in trust terms, “under water,” more distrusted than well-trusted. The bottom of the barrel is Congress, and lobbyists, both of which have a net negative, with more of those surveyed having little trust than the total of the high and average trust number. Even car salesmen don’t get that foul a reaction. These ratings also are based on ignorance and combining apples and oranges to some extent. Americans tend to trust their members of Congress, but not anyone else’s. I’m not sure the average American really knows what lobbyists do; they just think it has something to do with bribery. Still, trust is all about perception.
The partisan divide also reflects factors other than pure trust:
Republicans are pro rule of law, pro national defense, and pro religion; Democrats not so much. These attitudes are pure bias in both directions. For how long has the Left disliked and distrusted the police and the military? It’s more than half a century now. I am surprised that the ratings on the liberal side are as high as they are.
On the other end of the scale, Democrats are much more positive than Republicans about the news media, and why shouldn’t they be? The news media is largely working for them, and against Republicans. That still should be reason not to trust a profession supposedly dedicated to independence and objectivity, no matter where on the partisan spectrum you land. Would you truly “trust” a referee whom you knew was deliberately making his calls to benefit your team? That ref is clearly not honest; he’s just dishonest in a way that benefits you.
I know, I know. It’s too much to ask human beings to think that way. Writes Gallup:
…Democrats consider television and newspaper reporters much more honest than do Republicans, although Democrats’ honesty ratings for these professions fall below the 50% mark. This partisan divide reinforces recent Gallup findings that Democrats’ trust in the media is much higher than that of Republicans’. While Gallup did not measure attitudes about newspaper and television reporters last year, the very high/high reading for “journalists” showed a 15-point gap between Republicans and Democrats last year. Looking at “reporters” this year, that gap is roughly double what it was for “journalists” last year.
Well of course. Journalists have disgraced themselves and their profession in 2017. Apparently more Republicans have noticed.
Here is the whole chart:
|Very high/High||Average||Very low/Low|
|Grade school teachers||66||27||5|
|Day care providers||46||43||7|
|Nursing home operators||26||48||22|
|Members of Congress||11||29||60|
|GALLUP, Dec. 4-11, 2017|