These employees have the worst reputation for being honest

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Members of Congress now trail car salespeople in a ranking of the most and least trustworthy professions.

Lawmakers in Washington are dead last when it comes to their perceived honesty and ethics, according to a new survey from Gallup, which has evaluated various professions on these measures since 1976. The latest ratings are from a December poll that asked roughly 800 U.S. adults to rate each of 23 professions.

Other jobs at the bottom of the heap for their honesty and ethics: advertising pros, stockbrokers and insurance salespeople. As a more general profession, business executives also score poorly. Several professions also sank to new lows as measured by Gallup, including journalists, where 19% of those polled rated them as honest and ethical; clergy (32%); and pharmacists (55%).

Overall, Americans view just a handful of jobs as largely filled by honest and ethical people, and even then that more positive take is dimming. Only labor union leaders held their ground in 2023, according to Gallup, although that ground wasn’t exactly solid — just 25% of those polled rated the honesty and ethics of labor officials as “very high” or “high,” up a tick from 24% in 2019, the annual survey shows.

When it comes to workers who are seen as most trustworthy, nurses come out on top. Rounding out the top five are veterinarians, engineers, dentists and medical doctors, Gallup found.

The American Nurses Association applauded the findings.

“Given the considerable hardship and obstacles the nurses we advocate for are facing, including unsafe work environments, severe burnout and barriers to practice to name a few, this recognition is a true testament to the positive influence of nurses on their patients and their undeniable impact on the health care system,” ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, said Monday in a statement.

Police officers and college professors are viewed in unfavorable lights by a majority, with the former viewed as trustworthy by 45% of those polled and the latter seen as honest and ethical by 42%. 

The rankings go quickly downhill from there, with 17 professions viewed as dishonest and unethical by a majority of those surveyed. Only 6% of respondents viewed members of Congress as trustworthy. 

partisans-differing-ratings-of-honesty-and-ethics-of-professions.jpg
Gallup

College graduates tend to view professions in a more positive light, offering higher honesty and ethics ratings than non-college grads in each case, stated Gallup, which noted the educational differences were consistent with prior years’ surveys.

Democrats also tend to be “more complimentary of workers’ honesty and ethical standards than Republicans are,” Gallup said. “In fact, police officers are the only profession with higher honesty and ethics ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (55%) than among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (37%).”

The biggest gap by political party is over college professors, with 62% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans rating academics as trustworthy. 

Kate Gibson

Kate Gibson is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch in New York.

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