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Nurses take top ranking for Ethics

Americans Rate Nurses Highest on Honesty, Ethical Standards

In a recently issued Gallup Poll, Americans say nurses have the highest honesty and ethical standards. Members of Congress and car salespeople were given the worst ratings among the 11 professions included in the 2014 poll. Eighty percent of Americans say nurses have "very high" or "high" standards of honesty and ethics, compared with a 7% rating for members of Congress and 8% for car salespeople.

The results are not surprising to me since nurses are viewed as being in a “healing” professions, along with medical doctors and pharmacists that are ranked second and third. The survey results are as follows:


Americans have been asked to rate the honesty and ethics of various professions annually since 1990, and periodically since 1976. Nurses have topped the list each year since they were first included in 1999, with the exception of 2001 when firefighters were included in response to their work during and after the 9/11 attacks. Since 2005, at least 80% of Americans have said nurses have high ethics and honesty. The medical professions -- medical doctors and pharmacists -- tie this year for second place at 65%, with police officers and clergy approaching 50%.

Historically, honesty and ethics ratings for members of Congress have generally not been positive, with the highest rating reaching 25% in 2001. Since 2009, Congress has ranked at or near the bottom of the list, usually tied with other poorly viewed professions like car salespeople and -- when they have been included -- lobbyists, telemarketers, HMO managers, stockbrokers and advertising practitioners.

Although members of Congress and car salespeople have similar percentages rating their honesty and ethics as "very high" or "high," members of Congress are much more likely to receive "low" or "very low" ratings (61%), compared with 45% for car salespeople. Last year, 66% of Americans rated Congress' honesty and ethics "low" or "very low," the worst Gallup has measured for any profession historically.

These lowly ranked professions all have one thing in common. They spin the truth and exaggerate reality to induce the public to buy their story line. While not surprising it is particularly discouraging to see Congress rated so low. Congressmen and women should serve as role models for all in society and a beacon of hope for improvement in societal conditions. We all know Congress is and has been dysfunctional for quite a while, which is why our infrastructure is crumbling, problems persist over decades including immigration, and true tax reform never happens allowing corporations to skirt tax liability through transfer pricing schemes and inversions.

Looking at other results, previously in 2014, Gallup found that Americans continue to have low confidence in banks, and while Americans continue to have confidence in small businesses, big businesses do not earn a lot of confidence. This may be the result of Americans' views that bankers and business executives do not have high honesty and ethical standards, and the fact that their ratings dropped since last year. Moreover, the low ratings seem sound given the fallout from the scandals in the financial services industry spawned from subprime loans and the use of special purpose entities to shield debt from disclosure. These results are, in part, the legacy of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

Frankly, I’m disgusted with Congress and big business and, in large part, blame them for the decline in the standard of living of the middle class in America. The pursuit of self-interest is and has been their mantra for many years. There is no sense of acting to better society and help those who need and deserve the help to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This is true of so many things in our country starting with do nothing (how can Congress expect things to change for the better) and greed-driven decisions of top managers (how can that improve the lot of the average working citizen). Both groups should band together to develop a blueprint for improving the economic conditions, incomes, and wealth generation opportunities for the middle and lower classes. We can only hope they understand their mission as the major institutions in our society that can act for the good of all and will embrace it in 2015.

Happy New Year to all my readers.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on December 24, 2014. Professor Mintz teaches in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at