Americans ranked clergy and other professions based on perceptions of their ethics and honesty in a December 2013 Gallup poll.
“Gallup has asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of various professions periodically since 1976, and annually since 1990,” the report noted.
For the first time, less than 50 percent of respondents rated clergy “high” or “very high,” with 47 percent of 2013 respondents rating clergy in these categories.
The inaugural survey in 1977 found 60 percent of respondents rating clergy “high” to “very high.” Positive perceptions of clergy peaked in 1985 at 67 percent.
America’s view of clergy declined through the remainder of the 1980s and reached a low of 54 percent in 1993.
Affirmation rose slightly in the late 1990s, peaking at 64 percent in 2001, but then proceeded on a downward trajectory overall during the next decade.
In 2013, 13 percent rated clergy’s ethics and honesty “very high,” 34 percent “high,” 35 percent “average,” 8 percent “low,” 3 percent “very low” and 7 percent expressed no opinion.
Seven professions were rated higher than clergy – nurses, pharmacists, grade-school teachers, medical doctors, military officers and police officers – and 15 professions were rated lower.
The professions with the lowest perception of their ethics and honesty were car salespersons (9 percent), members of Congress (8 percent) and lobbyists (6 percent).
“If views of a certain profession have changed, it usually has been a function of scandal surrounding it,” Gallup commented. “The Catholic priest abuse stories from the early 2000s helped lead to a sharp drop in Americans’ ratings of clergy, a decline from which the profession has yet to fully recover.”
The full results of the Gallup poll can be found here.