News & Events

Public Rates Nursing as Most Honest and Ethical Profession

Image of the clergy recovers to late 1990s level, is still lower than in 2000 and 2001

by Joseph Carroll

PRINCETON, NJ — Nurses top Gallup’s annual survey on the honesty and ethics of various professions, followed by other medical professionals like doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists, and dentists. Car salesmen, HMO managers, insurance salesmen, and advertising practitioners are rated as the least honest and ethical. Overall, there has been little change in the public’s rating of the honesty and ethics of professions over the past year. The public’s image of the clergy has partially recovered from last year’s child sexual abuse scandals, while the images of business executives and stockbrokers remain slightly lower than they were before the recent wave of business scandals.

Honesty and Ethics of Professions in 2003
Americans, in the Nov. 14-16 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, were asked to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in 23 different professions as very high, high, average, low, or very low. In addition to the core professions Gallup tests each year, this year’s list focused on medical professions (last year’s focus was on business, and next year’s will be on government).

As has been the case in four out of the five times they have been included in the poll, nurses rank higher than any other profession, with 83% of respondents saying the honesty and ethical standards of nurses are "very high" or "high." The exception came in 2001, when firefighters (in their lone appearance on the honesty and ethics list) outscored nurses in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This year, medical doctors (with 68% of Americans saying they have "very high" or "high" honesty and ethical standards), veterinarians (68%), and pharmacists (67%) are the next-highest rated professions after nurses. The 68% rating for medical doctors is the highest Gallup has ever measured for that profession.

The poll also finds that a strong majority of Americans have positive opinions of dentists, college teachers, the police, engineers, and the clergy. The 61% rating of dentists is also the highest Gallup has measured for that profession.

Much lower percentages, between 20% and 38% of respondents, rate the honesty and ethical standards of psychiatrists, bankers, chiropractors, state governors, journalists, and senators favorably. The professions near the bottom of the list include business executives (18% "very high" or "high"), congressmen (17%), lawyers (16%), stockbrokers (15%), advertising practitioners (12%), insurance salesmen (12%), and HMO managers (11%). Car salesmen, with a 7% rating, are last in this year’s survey, as they have been in almost every survey in which they have been included since 1977.


How Have Americans’ Ratings of Professions Changed This Year?
There has been little change in the public’s assessment of professions since the last time Gallup asked about each; none have increased or decreased by more than five points:

Honesty and Ethics of Professions
Difference Between Current Ratings and Previous Ratings
(Percentage saying "very high" or "high")