Nurses keep healthy lead as most honest, ethical U.S. professionals

December 27, 2017

Americans have a healthy respect for nurses. In fact, for the 16th consecutive year, nurses have been rated number one by U.S. adults nationwide for honesty and ethical standards out of a list of 22 occupations, based on results of a recent Gallup poll.

A strong majority—82%—of Americans describe nurses’ ethics as “very high” or “high.” By contrast, about 60% Americans rate members of Congress (60%) and lobbyists (58%) as “very low” or “low” when it comes to honesty and ethical standards.

Overall, a majority of respondents to the poll in early December rated six professions as “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards. In addition to nurses, that list includes military officers, grade school teachers, medical doctors, police officers and pharmacists.

In addition to members of Congress and lobbyists, others who rated low on the list included car sales people, advertisers, business executives and lawyers.

Interestingly enough, the honesty rating of pharmacists—while it still registers high on an absolute basis—has dropped five points since last year and is at its lowest point since 1994, possibly reflecting the current nationwide opioid crisis.

Those who garnered majority “average” marks included bankers and auto mechanics.

The public is divided between positive and average honesty rankings for both judges and members of the clergy — two occupations that are expected to  exhibit the utmost honesty and ethical standards.

Gallup has measured Americans’ views on the honesty and ethics of the clergy 33 times dating back to 1977. Although the overall average positive rating is 55%, it has fallen below that level since 2009. This year marks the lowest rating to date, with 42% saying the clergy has “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards. The historical high of 67% occurred in 1985.

Views of the honesty and ethics of the clergy dropped precipitously in 2002, Gallup reminds us, amid the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. While positive ratings of the clergy’s honesty and integrity rebounded somewhat in the next few years, they fell to 50% in 2009 and have been steadily declining since then.

Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to rate police officers, military officers, clergy, pharmacists and judges as “very high” or “high” on honesty and ethics, which hasn’t changed much in recent years. Republicans are more conservative and more religious than Democrats which likely contributes to their ethics ratings.

Finally, it is no surprise, Gallup reports, that Democrats consider television and newspaper reporters much more honest and ethical than do Republicans.

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

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