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Nursing Tops Gallup's Most Honest and Ethical Professions List

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   January 09, 2020

For 18 consecutive years, the public has ranked nursing as the most honest and ethical profession. 

Once again, Americans have ranked nurses as the most honest and ethical professionals in Gallup's annual survey of U.S. adults. This is the 18th year in a row that nurses have earned this honor.

Currently, 85% of Americans rate nurses' honesty and ethical standards are "very high" or "high." Results in 2018 were similar with 84% of those surveyed ranking nurses as such.

Healthcare professionals in general rate highly in Americans' assessments of honesty and ethics with at least six in 10 U.S. adults saying physicians, pharmacists, and dentists have high levels of these qualities. Yet, nurses are consistently rated higher in honesty and ethics than all other professions that Gallup asks about.

Interestingly, a non-healthcare profession nabbed second place in the poll with 66% of respondents saying engineers have very high or high levels of honesty and ethics.

The top five professions on the list are:

  1. Nurses
  2. Engineers
  3. Physicians
  4. Pharmacists
  5. Dentists


Americans' do not look so favorably upon stockbrokers, advertising professionals, insurance salespeople, senators, members of Congress, and car salespeople, all of which garner less than 20% of U.S. adults saying they have high levels of honesty and ethics.

Honesty, Ethics Results Remain Stable

Americans' assessment of the honesty and ethics of most professions on Gallup's list has been consistent over time. However, there have been a few notable changes in the past year, including:

  • Americans' assessment of the honesty and ethics of journalists fell by five percentage points to 28%, returning journalists to levels seen in 2015.
  • The ongoing decline in views of the honesty and ethics of clergy seems to have paused. From 2012 to 2018, the percentage of Americans saying clergy had high levels of honesty and ethics dipped from 52% to 37%. Currently, 40% of respondents now regard clergy as having high honesty and ethical standards.
  • Trust in the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress rose to 12%, up from 8% in 2018. The percentages saying legislators have high honesty and ethics rose slightly among both Republicans (from 7% to 9%) and Democrats (from 6% to 12%).

Car salespeople rounded out the bottom of the list with only 9% of respondents saying individuals in this field have high levels of ethics and honesty.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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