Every year, the Gallup organization takes a poll of Americans with regard to which professions they deem to be the most honest and ethical – that is, who is worthy of our trust.
In 2019, for the 18th straight year, nurses topped the poll, and by a wide margin. According to Gallup, 85% of respondents rated nurses as “high” or “very high” when people were asked to rate the “honesty and ethical standards” of people in a variety of occupational fields.
That’s 20 percentage points ahead of other medical professionals who were also near the top of the list. Medical doctors (65%), pharmacists (64%) and dentists (61%) were listed third, fourth and fifth.
Evidently, the poll doesn’t include all of the same professions every year: Engineers ranked second in 2019 (66%), though they weren’t on the list the two previous years but earned a 65% high/very high approval rating in 2016.
Police officers (54%) and college teachers (49%) were next on the list in 2019. Police officers were at the same rate in 2018 but down slightly from 58% in 2016.
College teachers weren’t on the list in 2018, but high school teachers were, ranking fourth with 60% of respondents rating them “high” or “very high” in honesty and ethics.
Members of the clergy have been in a decline. In 2006, 58% of Americans ranked their trustworthiness as high or very high. It was down to 37% in 2018 but rebounded to 40% in 2019.
The usual suspects are at the bottom: U.S. senators (12%), members of Congress (9%) and car salespeople (9%).
There was no category for U.S. presidents.
By way of comparison, a global survey by Ipsos listed scientists as most trusted, with 60% putting them in the two highest categories.
Are you wondering what I’m wondering? What will the results of the 2020 poll show?
After a year in which high-placed politicians and their loyal fans have consistently decried the advice of the medical community, will the standing of medical professionals decline? Or will more people recognize their courageous and life-threatening care for COVID-19 patients and rate their trusted doctors and nurses even higher?
After a year involving multiple and tragic cases of police officers behaving badly, will fewer respondents find the profession in general less trustworthy?
After a year in which so many politicians acted like party sycophants rather than defenders of the people they represent, will their standing sink even lower?
And, after a year in which many pastors have blatantly sacrificed the ethics of Jesus on the altar of political gain, will the reputation of the clergy decline even further?
Be on the lookout: The poll is usually published in early January.
Of one thing I can be confident: When the new poll comes out, nurses will remain at the top of the heap and for good reason.
And I also know this: With extremely rare exceptions, every one of those trustworthy nurses would tell us this: “Wash your hands and wear your bloomin’ mask!”
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.