Nurses Displace Pharmacists at Top of Expanded Honesty and Ethics Poll

by Leslie McAneny

Despite stiff new competition, car salesmen remain dead last

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A century and a half after Florence Nightingale's heroic efforts in the Crimean War first brought attention -- and adulation -- to the nursing profession, public esteem for this profession is extremely high. In Gallup's annual Honesty and Ethics poll, expanded this year to include nurses and 19 additional occupations not previously rated, nearly three-quarters of Americans, 73%, deem nurses' honesty and ethics as either very high or high, putting them at the top of the list. Pharmacists remains the top-rated profession among occupations previously measured over the past 22 years; however, with a combined high/very high rating of 69%, they trail nurses on the new, expanded list by four percentage points.

These are the Top Five professions and occupations considered most honest by the American public:

  1. Nurses (highest rated of the 45 jobs and occupations tested, with 73% rating them highly)
  2. Pharmacists, 69%
  3. Veterinarians, 63%
  4. Medical Doctors, 58%
  5. K-12 Teachers, 57%

Rounding out the Top 10 are

  1. Clergy, 56%
  2. Judges, 53%
  3. Policemen, 52%
  4. Dentists, 52%
  5. College Teachers, 52%

At the other end of the spectrum are car salesmen at 8%, who, despite spirited competition from two newcomers, HMO managers and telemarketers (with combined high/very high ratings of only 10% and 9%, respectively), still technically finish last, as they have every time since the survey began in 1977. However, nearly as many people give the honesty and ethics of telemarketers low or very low ratings (55%) as give these same ratings to the hapless car salesmen (57%).

Here are the five professions and occupations considered least honest by the American public (the Bottom Five list), based on the percentages rating the occupation low or very low on honesty and ethics:

  • Car salesmen (worst rated of the 45 jobs and occupations tested, with 57% giving them low ratings)
  • Telemarketers, 55%
  • Insurance salesmen, 44%
  • HMO managers, 41%
  • Lawyers, 41%

Veterinarians Beat M.D.s
Four professions among those asked for the first time broke into the Top 10: nurses, veterinarians, grade and high school teachers, and judges. Americans who consider their pets as family members will be happy to learn that the public finds vets superior to medical doctors: 63% rate vets' honesty and ethics as very high or high, compared with 58% for M.D.s.

Politicians Still Scorned
One political group, state governors, was added this year to round out the four pre-existing political categories. Twenty-four percent of Americans gave governors a high or very high rating -- which may seem like a low percentage, but it is higher than those of local and state officeholders and U.S. senators and representatives, whose positive ratings ranged from 20% to only 11%.

Two professions have gained the most over the last ten years: pharmacists, whose high and very high rating has gone from 62% in 1990 to 69% today, and medical doctors, whose high and very high rating has gone from 52% to 58%. On the other hand, the three professions that have lost the most in the ratings over the last ten years are 1) TV reporters, down from 32% to 20%, 2) lawyers, down from 22% to 13%, and 3) congressmen, down from 20% to 11%.

Survey Methods
The results reported here are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,013 adults, 18 years and older, conducted November 4-7, 1999. For results based on the whole sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results based on subsamples of 489 and 522 adults each, the maximum error is plus or minus 5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, low, or very low? First, ... Next, ... .[RANDOM ORDER]

PHARMACISTS, MEDICAL DOCTORS, BUSINESS EXECUTIVES AND CAR SALESMEN BASED ON FULL SAMPLE.

ALL OTHER OCCUPATIONS BASED ON HALF SAMPLE OF EITHER 522 OR 489 NATIONAL ADULTS; MARGIN OF ERROR ± 5 PCT PTS.

(ranked by very high/high combined)
Very high High Average Low Very low No opinion
% % % % % %
1. Nurses 20 53 24 2 * 1
2. Druggists, pharmacists 18 51 27 3 1 *
3. Veterinarians 16 47 30 2 * 5
4. Medical doctors 12 46 34 5 2 1
5. Grade and high school teachers 14 43 34 7 1 1
6. Clergy 17 39 33 6 3 2
7. Judges 9 44 35 8 2 2
8. Policemen 9 43 38 8 2 *
9. Dentists 8 44 41 6 1 *
10. College teachers 8 44 37 7 2 2
11. Engineers 8 42 42 4 1 3
12. Day care providers 7 34 45 8 1 5
13. Funeral directors 5 30 49 9 4 3
14. Computer industry executives 5 30 48 8 1 8
15. Bankers 3 27 57 10 2 1
16. Home repair people, such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians 5 24 52 15 3 1
17. Chiropractors 3 23 48 13 4 9
18. State governors 3 21 57 15 4 *
19. Journalists 3 21 53 18 4 1
20. Auto mechanics 3 21 49 21 5 1
21. Business executives 2 21 59 12 3 3
22. Store salespeople 3 19 62 13 3 *
23. Nursing home operators 3 19 43 22 8 5
24. Computer salesmen 3 17 59 11 1 9
25. TV reporters, commentators 3 17 53 21 6 *
26. Local officeholders 2 18 56 18 5 1
27. Jewelers 1 19 57 15 2 6
28. Newspaper reporters 2 17 51 24 6 *
29. Building contractors 2 16 56 20 4 2
30. Labor union leaders 4 13 47 23 10 3
31. Senators 2 15 54 24 4 1
32. Stockbrokers 2 14 59 16 4 5
33. State officeholders 1 15 59 20 4 1
34. Entertainment industry executives 3 12 45 27 9 4
35. Real estate developers 1 14 47 28 6 4
36. Real estate agents 1 13 58 23 3 2
37. Lawyers 1 12 45 28 13 1
38. Gun salesmen 1 11 40 27 12 9
39. Congressmen 1 10 54 28 6 1
40. Journalists who publish only on the Internet 2 8 44 25 4 17
41. Insurance salesmen 1 9 45 35 9 1
42. HMO managers 1 9 41 29 12 8
43. Advertising practitioners 1 8 48 33 7 3
44. Telemarketers 1 8 34 33 22 2
45. Car salesmen 2 6 34 41 16 1

* less than 0.5%

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