Americans Rate Nurses Highest on Honesty, Ethical Standards

Story Highlights

• Nurses continue to be rated the most honest and ethical
• Members of Congress, car salespeople get lowest ratings
• Ratings of bankers and business executives declined this year

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In 2014, Americans say nurses have the highest honesty and ethical standards. Members of Congress and car salespeople were given the worst ratings among the 11 professions included in this year’s poll. Eighty percent of Americans say nurses have “very high” or “high” standards of honesty and ethics, compared with a 7% rating for members of Congress and 8% for car salespeople.

Americans have been asked to rate the honesty and ethics of various professions annually since 1990, and periodically since 1976. Nurses have topped the list each year since they were first included in 1999, with the exception of 2001 when firefighters were included in response to their work during and after the 9/11 attacks. Since 2005, at least 80% of Americans have said nurses have high ethics and honesty. Two other medical professions — medical doctors and pharmacists — tie this year for second place at 65%, with police officers and clergy approaching 50%.

Historically, honesty and ethics ratings for members of Congress have generally not been positive, with the highest rating reaching 25% in 2001. Since 2009, Congress has ranked at or near the bottom of the list, usually tied with other poorly viewed professions like car salespeople and — when they have been included — lobbyists, telemarketers, HMO managers, stockbrokers and advertising practitioners.

Although members of Congress and car salespeople have similar percentages rating their honesty and ethics as “very high” or “high,” members of Congress are much more likely to receive “low” or “very low” ratings (61%), compared with 45% for car salespeople. Last year, 66% of Americans rated Congress’ honesty and ethics “low” or “very low,” the worst Gallup has measured for any profession historically.

Other relatively poorly rated professions, including advertising practitioners, lawyers, business executives and bankers are more likely to receive “average” than “low” honesty and ethical ratings. So while several of these professions rank about as low as members of Congress in terms of having high ethics, they are less likely than members of Congress to be viewed as having low ethics.

Bottom Line

Americans continue to rate those in medical professions as having higher honesty and ethical standards than those in most other professions. Nurses have consistently been the top-rated profession — although doctors and pharmacists also receive high ratings, despite the drops since 2013 in the percentage of Americans who say they have high ethics. The high ratings of medical professions this year is significant after the Ebola outbreak which infected a number of medical professionals both in the U.S. and in West Africa.

Article by Rebecca Riffkin.

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