The chart above shows the summary results of Gallup’s annual survey of the public’s trust in various professions. The venerable polling organization has set out to measure the public attitudes toward the honesty and ethical standards of professions and occupations since 1976. The poll, conducted between December 3 and 12, 1,025, asked U.S. adults, as Johnny Carson’s quiz show didfrom 1957-1962, “Who Do You Trust?” and also “How much?” The survey has never revealed whether and how much any of these groups should be trusted, for trust is often irrational, and based more on perception than reality. If you want to be cynical about it, you can conclude that it only tells us who does the better job of conning those who depend on them.
As in every year for two decades, (with the exception of 2001, when firefighters were on the list after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) nurses topped the list. Before that, pharmacists and clergymen exchanged yearly titles for most-trusted. I have wondered if pharmacists lost votes once “It’s A Wonderful Life” started being shown on the networks every holiday season, with old Mr. Gower shown drunkenly loading pill capsules meant for a sick kid from the contents of a jar labeled “POISON.” However, there isn’t much mystery why public regard for the clergy’s ethics has dived.
This year, 37% of respondents had a “very high” or “high” opinion of the honesty and ethical standards of men and women of the cloth. 43% of people gave them an average rating, while 15 percent said they had a “low” or “very low” opinion, according to the poll, released on December 12. This was the worst rating for priests and ministers since this Gallup survey began. In 1985, 67% trusted their spiritual betters highly or very highly, but since 2009 the trust rating has receded into negative territory. This year has been an especially bad one for sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and Protestant churches haven’t been immune either, so the drop should surprise anyone.
I am surprised, frankly, that the ratings aren’t a lot worse. They should be. Faith works miracles, I guess. Or, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Unlike pharmacists, it may be that the clergy benefits from the survey always taking place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when church attendance spikes.
In addition to those trustworthy nurses and pharmacists, Americans rate three other professions as having “high” or “very high” honesty and ethical standards: medical doctors (67%), , high school teachers (60%), and police officers (54%). I am also surprised that police officers continue to rank high, despite the long-running effort to tar them as trigger-happy racists.
In a graphic example of how confirmation bias works, the ratings for journalists bounced up this year, a year in which the profession sank to new lows in professionalism, competence, honesty, and fairness. Guess why.
Partisans’ Ratings of Journalists’ Honesty and Ethical Standards
Naturally, Democrats like the fact that the news media is pushing their interests and views, even though this means that journalists are untrustworthy. I presume that the cognitive dissonance scale is also at work for independents, who react to President Trump’s labeling of the news media as “enemies of the people” with reflex revulsion, a true as the assessment may be. This depressing but predictable phenomenon explains why journalists won’t reform any time soon, if ever. Only when a significant percentage of those partisans whom the journalists unethically manipulate their reporting to help begin to protest will the news media be motivated to stop choosing propaganda over facts. Right now, their power game is working.
The whole survey is here.