Who is ethical and honest?

Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man, attributed to J. H. W. Tischbein (c. 1780)

On a regular basis Gallup runs an “Ethics and Honesty” ratings poll for various professions. The results are perhaps predictable and expected for some. What is a tad interesting is to compare the latest results with previous polls and see where trends are going.

However, there is also problem here. How meaningful are polls that ask people for generic very broad conclusions, and what does such data actually tell us?

Let’s park that for a bit and come back to it later and first dive into what this poll appears to reveal.

The Results – A summary

Those polled are asked to rank 23 very specific professions. The specific question asked is “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?

This was last Dec.

Here now are the results compared to the same poll in 2019 and 2022 …

Those at the bottom are not exactly a surprise.

In 2019 selling cars ranked the lowest and while trust in that profession fell, Senators and also members of Congress fell far faster and further.

Give us a quick shout out if you are shocked by this “revelation”

(listens to the sound of tumbleweed)

What is fascinating is that most people do not think anybody, except those working in either engineering or medicine can be trusted. Yet even those professions saw a decline in trust.

A Deeper Dive into Five Professions

Here are the ranking going all the way back to 1975 …

All of them are new lows.

If you are wondering about the gaps for some, that’s down to them rotating some professions such as Journalists. They have not asked about them in every poll over the years, hence data gaps.

For some it has been a modest decline, but others such as clerics … well Jesus (explicative), that’s a steep decline. They have gone from over 60% to 32%.

However, given the revelations of rampant sexual abuse and all the associated coverups over the decades, and I don’t mean one or two bad apples, but instead a continuous torrent that shows no signs of ebbing even today, then I’m quite frankly astonished that it is still as high as 32%.

Wait, what about the people being Polled, what does that reveal?

The trust ranking of those who graduated from collage vs those that did not, reveals a rather interesting divide …

This is also perhaps predictable.

The more educated you are, the more you probably lean away from negative blanket judgements of an entire profession.

There is also a very predictable political divide …

What is fascinating about the above is just how much more positive democrats are vs Republicans … except when it comes to Police officers.

I speculate that this is most probably due to how the Republican information bubble tends to be far more focused on how supposedly evil, nefarious and satanic “they” are. This rage politics is designed to rile up the mob and has expressed deep anger for Disney, M&Ms, Taylor Swift, etc… It is far more focused on stopping “them”, and is generally never about bettering society for all. As a rather stark contrast, Democrats tend to be more focused on just getting on with doing meaningful things for the benefit of all.

Yea, I’m politically biased, and yes, I do recognise that there are also crappy Democrats and good Republicans, but they tend to be exceptions and not the norm.


Well yes, I did flag up that this “but” was coming.

I have a huge problem with polls like this and seriously question just how meaningful they actually are.

Take for example the view of the House. Members only have a 6% approval rating, yet more or less the same people stand for election cycle after cycle and they get voted back in. If indeed the prevailing view was one where only 6% actually approved of them, then you should see a vast churn rate, but we don’t. This reveals that generic measurements like this, even interesting as they are to reveal generic perceptions, don’t tell you the real story.

You most probably know who your local representative is, may have seen them in action locally, and so you may indeed, if they align with your political leanings, be considered to be a really good representative who does a fantastic job. At the same time you may also view all of his colleagues as a bunch of nefarious work-shy lazy incompetent grifters but not as bad as those on the other side, so you maintain a generally negative view and yet you still support your guy because he is one of the few good ones.

If you are asked to rank the honestly and ethics of Journalists then how do you even begin to accurately answer that?

If you consider Fox News, OAN and similar, then it’s a big bold zero. They have no honesty or ethics at all and that’s not an opinion, various lawsuits establish that to be a legal fact. But what about the others?

I do take serious issue with the almost fanatical focus upon that recent and deeply dubious report that makes a big deal of Biden’s memory, and almost no focus at all upon the success of many of his policies. Meanwhile Mr 91-Indictments, the most corrupt inept individual ever nominated, does not get the same degree of scrutiny for the literally batshit crazy stuff he says on a daily basis, for example him explaining that he will tell allies that he will encourage Putin to invade them (seriously, What the actual Fuck).

Ranking Journalism is a complicated question and so a generic answer is for me almost impossible. There are crappy journalists, corrupt journalists who don’t truly merit the title “journalist”, and many who do an excellent job, so how can you really come to a generic overall conclusion?

I would struggle.

It’s easy to blame journalists, but when you have an environment where the likes of Fox and OAN are permitted to hire anybody and call them a “journalist”, then freely enable them to spout total BS without any accountability, then yes, that’s a huge problem, but should that reality be permitted to tar and feather an entire profession?

Rinse and repeat for the negative perceptions of many professions.

The bottom line is this. The issue of bad perceptions of a profession is not explained by nefarious or incompetent people, but rather it tells you that here really is a need for meaningful reform.

Nurses and Engineers rank high. These are profession where you need to demonstrate competence, pass an exam and demonstrate that you know what you are doing and can do it ethically and safely.

Meanwhile, the professions that rank low are awash with people who might think they are competent, but many are not. There is also often no standard to adhere to and anybody can simply give it a go.

Think of it like this, if you went to a Doctor and upon entering his office discovered sitting on his desk was a copy of “The Idiots Guide to Medicine”, and learned that you were his very first patient ever, how thrilled would you be?

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