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Gallup ranks perceived honesty of 22 professions

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People just don't trust Congress.

That is just one implication of a recent Gallup poll that shows only 10 percent of respondents said Congress has very high or high honesty and ethical standards, second only to car salespeople. Nurses, on the other hand, are the most trusted according to the study. About 85 percent of respondents said nurses have high ethical standards.

Gallup surmises the negotiations over fiscal cliff could be partially to blame for Americans' views of Congress.

"As Congress remains involved in protracted negotiations over the pending ‘fiscal cliff' that could disrupt the nation's economy if not addressed by Jan. 1, one in 10 Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of its members has high or very high," according to Gallup. "This puts the lawmaking body second lowest on a list of 22 professions measured."

The survey was conducted Nov. 26-29 and asked respondents to rate each of those 22 professions on a five-point honesty and ethical scale from "very high" to "very low." Perceptions of the 22 professions varied widely – from a high of 85 percent who rate nurses' ethics and honesty very high, to a low of 8 percent who viewed car salespeople as honest and ethical.

Gallup has rated each of the professions for 15 years, and Congress rarely ranks much higher on the list. The high point for Congress came in November 2001 when 25 percent of Americans rated their honest and ethical standards as high or very high. However, only 7 percent of respondents rated Congress' ethics and honesty as high or very high, a record low. People tend to trust members of the Senate over those in the House of Representatives.

"Senators and state governors receive slightly higher honesty ratings than members of Congress do, as is typical," according to Gallup. "The highest honest rating for senators was 25 percent in November 2001. State governors were not rated in 2001, but their highest rating was 31 percent in 2000."

State governors were rated at 20 percent this year and senators came in at 14 percent.

Of the six medical professions rated, nurses, pharmacists and medical doctors were ranked as the top three. Pharmacists were rated 75 percent while doctors came in at 70 percent. According to Gallup, nurses have scored at the top every year since they were first included in the list in 1999. The honesty ratings of the three professions are at all-time highs, though by slim margins. Doctors' 70 percent honesty rating is the same as last year's, but up from the low of 47 percent in the mid-1990s. Nurses are up one point from their previous high and pharmacists are two points higher than their previous record. Pharmacists once topped the list before Gallup began including nurses.

Dentists are also tied with their 2011 score at 62 percent. Psychiatrists, 41 percent, and chiropractors, 38 percent, have the lowest ratings among medical professionals although both are above the median for the 22 professions ranked and are at their highest levels in Gallup history.

On the business side, neither executives nor bankers score highly on a relative basis, but scores for both professions are up over 2011. According to Gallup, bankers received a 37 percent score in 2000 and 2006, but their perceived honesty plummeted after the 2008 financial crisis to a low 19 percent. Business executives have never scored particularly high on the scale, according to Gallup, with ratings ranging from a high of 25 percent in 2001 to a low of 12 percent in 2008 and 2009.

The engineering sector is seeing a rise in trust. Gallup does not often test the perceived honesty of engineers, but that group is at its highest ranking yet of 70 percent, up from a previous high of 62 percent in 2009. Engineers are currently tied with doctors for third place on the list.

Police, teachers and members of the clergy continue to do well on the list. Expectedly, less than 50 percent of Americans have positive perceptions of lawyers, journalists, insurance salespeople, HMO managers, stockbrokers and advertising practitioners. All of those professions have a score below 25 percent.