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Brunswick Business Journal Staff Report

December 26, 2018. -- More than four in five Americans (84%) again rate the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as "very high" or "high," earning them the top spot among a diverse list of professions for the 17th consecutive year in a Gallup poll. At the same time, members of Congress are again held in the lowest esteem, as nearly 58% of Americans say they have "low" or "very low" ethical standards. Telemarketers join members of Congress as having a majority of low/very low ratings.

With the exception of one year, 2001, when firefighters were on the list after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, nurses have far outpaced all other professions since they were added to the list two decades ago. Before 1999, pharmacists and clergy members were frequently the most-highly rated professions for their ethics.


Majorities of Americans also rate four other professions as having "high" or "very high" honesty and ethical standards in the Dec. 3-12 poll: medical doctors (67%), pharmacists (66%), high school teachers (60%) and police officers (54%).

Twelve of the remaining 13 occupations receive "average" ratings for their honesty and ethical standards from pluralities or majorities ranging from 42% to 54%. Among them, those garnering majority "average" marks for their honesty and ethical standards are real estate agents (54%) and lawyers (51%).

The ethics rating of journalists this year is split, with roughly equal thirds of the public saying they have very high/high, average or low/very low ethical standards.

Although journalists' 33% very high/high rating is not outstanding relative to many of the other professions, it marks a 10-percentage-point increase from two years ago and now matches their record high, last recorded in 1977.

Since 1976, Gallup has asked Americans to rate the ethical standards of journalists 29 times, and the overall average positive rating over that period is 26%. Until 2016, strong pluralities or majorities rated journalists as "average," but after the 2016 presidential campaign, the public's ratings of journalists declined. In December 2016, 41% of Americans held a negative opinion of their ethics.

Yet this year, positive assessments of journalists' ethical standards have rebounded, owed largely to shifting opinions of Democrats and independents, who may be reacting to President Donald Trump's repeated characterizations of the news media as "the enemy of the people."

Democrats' very high/high rating of journalists' honesty has jumped 21 points since 2016 to 54% this year. For their part, political independents' views have shifted from a 42% low and a 20% high ethics rating to roughly one-third each now saying journalists have high, average and low ethics. At the same time, Republicans' views are essentially unchanged, with 61% now giving journalists low ethics ratings.


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