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Gallup Poll on Honesty & Ethics in the Professions

How Does Your Profession Rate? 

According to a 2022 Gallup Poll, Nurses continue to receive the highest ethics rating from Americans among a diverse list of professions, a distinction they have held for more than two decades. The 79% of U.S. adults who now say nurses have “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards is far more than any of the other 17 professions rated. Still, the current rating is 10 percentage points lower than the highest rating for nurses, recorded in 2020, when they were on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and their ethics ratings soared.

Two other health-related professions that enjoyed similar bumps in their ethics ratings in 2020 -- medical doctors and pharmacists -- now rank second and third behind nurses, with 62% and 58% of Americans, respectively, rating them highly. And like nurses, both of these professions’ ethics ratings dropped significantly in 2021 and edged down further this year. All three are now below their pre-pandemic levels.

Pharmacists, who typically earned higher trust ratings than doctors before 2013, have ranked slightly below that profession since the pandemic and now register their lowest ethics rating in four decades of measurement (58%) by one point. Medical doctors’ rating is at its lowest point since 1999 and nurses since 2004.

Gallup Poll

Making Sense of the Ratings

I don't think these reductions are very meaningful because the very high and high ratings are still quite large. Add in average ratings and 96% of nurses are rated as ethical. The combined rates for medical doctors are 90% and pharmacists at 92%.

In addition to the three healthcare-related fields, just one other profession is held in high regard among a majority of Americans -- high school teachers, who are rated highly by 53% of U.S. adults.

Aside from police officers, who have a 50% high ethics rating, no more than 41% rate any of the remaining 13 professions highly for their honesty. However, most of these professions’ images are in the middle rather than below average.

What’s Up with Congress?

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. The 2022 survey shows that only 35% of respondents rated Congress as very high or high.

Members of Congress are much more likely to receive "low" or "very low" ratings (62%) for 2022, compared with 44% 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.

According to Gallup, these lowly ranked professions all have one thing in common. "They spin the truth and exaggerate reality to induce the public to buy their story line." The low rating is not surprising to me. Members of Congress are self-serving. They do not put the public interest ahead of their own interests or those of the party. Their concern is to attract voters and they, seemingly, would promote any action, or lack thereof, to gain voters even if it is not in the best interests of society. A case in point is the lack of a coherent immigration policy. How will we ever be able to provide the resources to support the millions of people that cross our borders each year?

Gallup believes that "Congressmen and women should serve as role models for all in society and a beacon of hope for improvement in societal conditions." This is highly unlikely because it is a dysfunctional body. How else can we explain the bickering between parties and attacks on one another’s character and points of view rather than recognizing that mutual cooperation for the public good should be the basis for our democracy. I’m concerned that our national problems continue to persist and even fester, such as immigration and alleviating the national debt problem, both of which can be characterized as "kicking the can down the road." Sooner or later we may collapse under our own weight and the economy will wind up in shambles.

Financial Services Industry

Looking at other results, previously in 2014, "Gallup found that Americans continue to have low confidence in banks, and while Americans continue to have confidence in small businesses, big businesses do not earn a lot of confidence. This may be the result of Americans' views that bankers and business executives do not have high honesty and ethical standards, and the fact that their ratings dropped since last year. Moreover, the low ratings seem sound given the fallout from the scandals in the financial services industry spawned from subprime loans and the use of special purpose entities to shield debt from disclosure." These results give credence that my fears may be real.

The finance and investment worlds periodically have created economic upheaval, and more than once. The early 2000s was exemplified by business fraud, such as at Enron and WorldCom. Lots of people lost lots of money during these times. The 2008-2009 period was marked by the sub-prime mortgage debacle where housing prices fell as much as 30%-40% because financial advisors hyped poorly crafted mortgages that couldn’t be paid because they were made to those with poor credit risk profiles. Banks and other financial institutions thought that by flooding the market with risky securitized debt obligations, the costs to process a mortgage that go to banks would increase their profit margin. Many banks sold off these mortgages and transferred the risk to an unsuspecting third party. We all know what happened during that time period.

Excessive Executive Compensation

Bloomberg recently reported the highest paid CEOs in 2021 including their salary, bonus, stock awards, option awards, and perks. The numbers are staggering. The top two highly paid CEOs have monetary values well over a billion dollars. It’s true that a lot of these amounts are the result of stock and option awards. Nevertheless, a fair question to ask is why not share more of the wealth with the average worker even in the form of compensation awards?







Elon MuskCEO



10.1 B


Robert ScaringeCEO

Rivian Automotive


2.3 B


Tim CookCEO



854 M


Peter RawlinsonCEO/ CTO


575,681,738 576 M

Summing it Up

Frankly, I’m disgusted with Congress and big business and, in large part, blame them for the decline in the standard of living of the middle class in America. The pursuit of self-interest is and has been their mantra for many years. There is a lack of commitment to acting to better society and help those who need and deserve the help to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Large corporations need to take their (sometimes) empty pledges to adhere to corporate social responsibility principles seriously. 

Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This is true of so many things in our country starting with do nothing (how can Congress expect things to change for the better) and greed-driven decisions of top managers (how can that improve the lot of the average working citizen). Both groups should band together to develop a blueprint for improving the economic conditions, incomes, and wealth generation opportunities for the middle and lower classes. We can only hope they will come to understand their mission as major institutions in society that should use their resources to support the common good.

Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on March 2, 2023. You can sign up for our newsletter and learn more about Steve’s activities by checking out his website at: Follow me on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: