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Where Americans put their trust - Generations

Where Americans put their trust - Generations

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During the last tough year and a half due mostly to the effects of the pandemic, Americans seemed to have increased their trust in professions that worked hard to provide care and services to help get us over the hurdle.

The medical profession, not surprisingly, came out on top, as they have in many years. According to the latest Gallup poll, when medical workers braved exposure to the coronavirus to provide lifesaving care, Americans showed their gratitude by giving nurses, medical doctors and pharmacists high marks for their honesty and ethics.

Nurses were on top, and poll results came as no surprise to them, since they have been on top for nearly two decades. Nurses earned a record 89% very high/high score for their honesty and ethics in this last poll, four percentage points greater than their prior high last recorded in 2019. Nurses have topped Gallup’s Honesty and Ethics list in all but one year since they were added in 1999. The only exception was 2001, when firefighters were measured on a one-time basis shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and earned the highest score to date for any profession, 90%. Nurses were one-point shy of that mark this year.

Medical doctors’ rating improved even more in the past year, rising 12 points to 77% and exceeding the previous high of 70% found in 2011 and 2012.

And let’s not forget our hardworking pharmacists that fill our lifesaving prescriptions. Their honesty and ethics rating went up seven points to 71%. While not their highest rating, it is the highest since 2012, when 75% rated them this positively.

The latest results are based on a Dec. 1-17 Gallup poll in which Americans were asked to rate the honesty and ethics of 15 different occupational groups as very high, high, average, low or very low. Gallup first conducted its Honesty and Ethics poll in 1976 and has updated it annually since 1990. A handful of professions have been on the list every year, while Gallup asks about others periodically.

Thankfully, the poll also paid tribute to generous, hardworking grade-school teachers. After nurses and doctors, grade-school teachers (the only category of teachers measured) were the next-highest-rated profession, with 75% rating their ethics very high or high. Although only one point ahead of their previous high in 2007, it is the first time since then that grade-school teachers have scored more than 70%, and this represents a nine-point improvement from their most recent rating in 2017. This may reflect public appreciation for the risks taken by teachers in going back to school during the pandemic, as well as their commitment to teaching under unprecedented circumstances, whether in the classroom or online.

While not in the top tier, nursing home operators were another group that faced extraordinary challenges this year during the pandemic. These workers came in at eighth place, with a new high of 36% rating their ethics positively. That is 10 points above their previous rating in 2017 and four points ahead of their prior high of 32% recorded in 2013.

Police officers ranked fifth this year, with 52% rating them highly, similar to their 54% score in 2019, and making them the only profession aside from the top four to have a majority of Americans rating their ethics highly. While below their high point of 68% in November 2001, today’s 52% rating of the police is well above their all-time low of 37% recorded in 1977. Their more recent low was a 48% reading in 2014.

And, as a preface to which professions came in last, please don’t send me nasty emails because you or someone you know are working in the professions that came in last because this was a poll taken across America and it doesn’t represent my opinion — I promise. And the only comment that I’ll make is that it doesn’t say much for all the money spent on political campaigns, debates, advertising, mud-slinging and all the work that our elected officials do in Washington because, unfortunately, members of Congress tied for last place with car salespeople with just 8% rating them highly (apologies to all car salesmen out there that happen to be reading this). Members of Congress had received acclaim from 12% of Americans in 2019, their highest in a decade, but even that small increase was short-lived.

No other profession rated this year experienced much change in its honesty and ethics score. That included lawyers (19%), journalists (33%—ouch!) and bankers (27%) in the bottom half of the list and members of clergy (37%) and judges (43%) in the top half. Judges’ 43% score is identical to their previous rating in 2017 (most likely helped a bit by the 10 million people who tune in and love to watch “Judge Judy” daily).

Peg DeMarco is a Morganton resident who writes a weekly features column for The News Herald. Contact her at

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