Americans’ confidence in those who provide medical treatment, teach, cover the news and provide other essential services is in decline amid a growing loss of faith in public institutions.
A Gallup survey of people’s belief in the honesty and ethics in 22 fields showed gains in just five of them going back four years, losses in 13 and no change in five.
The biggest losers in the annual survey, taken Dec. 7 to 11, were college teachers, engineers, insurance salespeople and journalists. Only psychiatrists showed significant gains.
Nurses remain by far the most trusted professionals, with 84 percent of Americans saying they have very high or high trust in them. That figure was down 1 point from last year’s record-high 85 percent. Nurses have topped the list of professions in trustworthiness every year except one since Gallup began asking about them in 1999.
People in only five other fields are held in high or very high trust by more than half of Americans: pharmacists at 67 percent, doctors at 65 percent, engineers at 65 percent, dentists at 59 percent and police at 58 percent.
“Healthy majorities of the American public continue to trust the honesty and ethical standards of healthcare providers – nurses, doctors, pharmacists and dentists,” said Jim Norman, a Gallup analyst.
Even that faith is under pressure, however. While almost two-thirds of Americans still express faith in physicians, that figure is down from a high of 70 percent four years ago.
“Americans do not, by and large, rate the honesty and ethical standards of American professions highly,” Norman said.
The least trusted professionals are health-plan managers, stockbrokers, advertisers, insurance and car salespeople and members of Congress.
No surprise, lawmakers are held in especially low esteem, with just 8 percent of Americans evincing high or very high trust in them, down from a historical high of 25 percent in November 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. To reinforce the point, 59 percent of respondents expressed low or very low trust in members of Congress. The 51 point difference between high and low was the biggest gap among all 22 professions in the survey.
Governors fare somewhat better, with 18 percent expressing high or very high trust in them, down from their high-water mark of 31 percent in November 2000.
Just 23 percent hold high or very high trust in journalists. That level is above their low mark of 20 percent in 1994 but down from their top score of 33 percent in 1976, two years after the Watergate scandal forced President Richard Nixon to resign.
Journalists fared poorly in another measure: 41 percent of Americans say they have low or very low trust in them, up from 31 percent in 2009. Almost two-thirds of Republicans gave journalists low marks.
Only 47 percent of Americans have high or very high trust in college teachers, while 18 percent said they have low or very low trust, a significant reputational decline from the previous record of 11 percent in 2009.
With many conservatives claiming that universities have a liberal bias, only one-third of Republicans expressed high or very high trust in college teachers vs. 63 percent of Democrats.
With the fallout from church sex scandals continuing, clergy slipped to having high or very high trust of just 44 percent of Americans, the lowest point since Gallup began inquiring about them in 1977.