By Aaron Earls
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are more likely to trust medical professionals, while few believe pastors are completely honest.
Gallup’s annual ratings of the honesty and ethical standards of professions finds nurses continue to be the most trusted, followed by medical doctors, grade-school teachers and pharmacists.
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, medical professionals top the list of the most trusted professions. The 89% of Americans who give nurses high or very high scores for their honesty marks a record high percentage, up from 85% last year. Doctors’ ratings improved 12 points to 77%, while pharmacists climbed seven points to 71%.
The public also seem to note the work required by teachers balancing in-person and distance learning during the pandemic. Those giving grade-school teachers the highest marks for honesty reached 75% in the most recent survey.
Despite falling in recent years, police officers are the only other profession about which a majority of Americans (52%) say they have high or very high ethics and honesty.
Americans’ opinion of clergy’s honesty falls between judges and nursing home operators. Around 2 in 5 (39%) say pastors have at least high ethical standards, including 10% who say their honesty is very high.
For 41% of the public, the honesty and ethical standards of clergy are average, while 11% rate it as low and 4% as very low. Another 4% say they have no opinion of pastors’ honesty, the highest of any profession.
Half (51%) of Americans 55 and older say clergy have high honesty, while less than half than number (24%) of 18- to 34-year-olds agree.
Women are more likely to rate pastors as ethical than men. Americans with college degrees give clergy higher honesty marks than those with only a high school education or less.
This marks the second time since Gallup began surveying Americans about their trust of various occupations that fewer than 2 in 5 gave clergy the highest ratings.
Two years ago, pastors reached their lowest mark at 37% who say they have high or very high honesty. Last year, the climbed back up to 40% before dipping back down to 39% in the last survey.
In 1985, 67% said clergy had high or very high honesty and ethical standards—the high-water mark for the profession.
Since 2002, however, positive views of clergy’s honesty have dissipated, spurred in part by revelations of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church and other denominations.
After briefly stabilizing, Americans’ positive opinions of the ethics of pastors has declined eight of the last 10 years.
Ratings of the professions by the public perception of honesty:
- Nurses (89% high/very high)
- Medical doctors (77%)
- Grade-school teachers (75%)
- Pharmacists (75%)
- Police officers (52%)
- Judges (43%)
- Clergy (39%)
- Nursing home operators (36%)
- Bankers (29%)
- Journalists (28%)
- Lawyers (21%)
- Business executives (17%)
- Advertising practitioners (10%)
- Car salespeople (8%)
- Members of Congress (8%)
Aaron is the senior writer/editor at LifewayResearch.com.