Least trusted professions in America

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February 5, 2019
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Least trusted professions in America

Honesty and integrity: Two values Americans hold dear, especially when it comes to entrusting important matters like healthcare, taxes, and education to professionals. While some industries hold workers to strict ethical standards, others may not have strict regulations or may include people who are perceived to flex the rules.

Everyone wants to feel trusted by the people they're working for, regardless of the work one does—whether renovating a kitchen or introducing laws that could impact many generations. So, which professionals do Americans tend to trust above the rest?

In 2018, Gallup polled more than 1,000 adults from all 50 states. Interviewers asked how each individual would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various fields. The people polled ranked each from “very low” to “very high.” Stacker compiled a list from this data, ranking professions from most to least trustworthy. The results may surprise you.

Also: Most trusted professions in America 

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#20. Nurses

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 2%

Known for their self-sacrifice and long hours, perhaps it's no surprise nurses are among the most trusted professions. A full 84% percent of respondents said that the standards of nurses were high or very high. That's likely because of all the intensive, hands-on work that nurses do, often taking over patient care in the face of doctor shortages.

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#19. Pharmacists

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 5%

Pharmacists are ranked among the most trusted professions. In 2018, only 5% of respondents said they distrusted them. Local pharmacists often build up relationships with customers, helping them to understand their medications and sometimes advising them on important healthcare matters.

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#18. Accountants

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 7%

According to a separate study by the International Federation of Accountants, business leaders tend to trust accountants more than consultants, bankers, and lawyers. That may be because accountants are seen as being more independent and having their clients' best intentions at heart.

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#17. Medical doctors

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 8%

The Hippocratic Oath—the guiding principles that doctors must abide by—has been updated in recent years to recognize the autonomy of a patient. Given that physicians often are involved in literal matters of life and death, it makes sense that they are trusted in the eyes of most Americans.

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Tied #15. Funeral directors

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 10%

In 1963, writer Jessica Mitford published her book The American Way of Death, which showed the often gruesome realities of funeral practices and exposed how grieving families were scammed out of money by funeral directors. Though this rocked the industry at the time, a lot has changed since then: Only 10% of those surveyed by Gallup said they found funeral directors to be untrustworthy.

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Tied #15. High school teachers

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 10%

High school teachers are known for working long hours, receiving relatively low pay, and sacrificing themselves for the betterment of their students. However, those who rated them as untrustworthy may have been influenced by some of the documented abuse scandals that have rocked the education system in recent years.

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#14. Police officers

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 13%

Despite documented cases of police violence that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, police still have a relatively high trust rating that is the same as 2003 levels. This may be due in part to efforts by various police forces to reform their departments, and positive relationships with local police in areas where officers are members of the communities they protect.

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#13. Clergy

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 15%

Members of the clergy—which includes priests, nuns, missionaries, pastors, and rabbis—have been rocked by scandals over the years. Most noteworthy are the cases of child sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church that have been coming to light more and more. Despite this, only 15% of respondents claimed they were untrustworthy, with 37% saying the clergy was very trustworthy.

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#12. Real estate agents

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 19%

Real estate agents get a commission on sales, which means that some race to sell despite what their clients' best interests are. In the worst cases, a bungled deal can leave buyers temporarily homeless—but real estate agents must be responsible for some good experiences since they're not the lowest on the list.

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#11. Building contractors

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 20%

In the best cases, building contractors help people create and renovate their dream homes. In the worst cases, their workers may do shoddy work, not finish a project they were hired to do, or even steal money from their clients. These mixed experiences are likely why building contractors sit firmly in the middle of the pack.

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#10. Bankers

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 21%

Last decade's financial crisis was directly tied to bad loans given by investment banks. Bankers' reputations were only worsened by the subsequent $700 million bank bailout bill: One-fifth of survey respondents marked banking professionals as untrustworthy.

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#9. Lawyers

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 28%

Is the trope about lawyers being devious rooted in truth? Americans hold a cultural view of attorneys as untrustworthy, despite the fact that they have to pass an ethics test as part of the bar exam. One cause for this distrust may be lawyers' training in objectivity: The best in their field can argue either side of the same case.

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#8. Labor union leaders

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 31%

Though union ties remain strong in Europe, labor organizations have been on the decline in America for decades. Despite their outward goal of improving conditions for workers, some people still think of labor unions unfavorably.

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Tied #6. Business executives

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 32%

Given the number of corporate scandals consistently popping up in news headlines, it's not surprising business executives get a bad rap. But perhaps respondents were also influenced by studies that show a significant number of CEOs are psychopaths, with some research saying CEOs and business leaders are four times as likely to be psychopaths than the average person.

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Tied #6. Stockbrokers

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 32%

Stockbrokers give advice on buying and selling stocks, hunting down the best deals for their clients in exchange for a commission. Because they only make money from sales, they're often perceived as pressuring clients and even misleading them. Movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was based on a true story, don't help the reputations of stockbrokers.

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#5. Journalists

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 34%

In our polarizing political climate, journalists have come under fire and accused of having their own agendas in how they report the news. Trust in the new media is down in part due to perceptions that they're willing to report stories before facts are verified, are biased, and lack transparency regarding sources.

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#4. Advertising practitioners

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 37%

Advertisers push their products hard—sometimes to the detriment of truth. Although advertising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, there have been dozens of cases where ads were proven to have stretched the truth to the point of being downright fraudulent.

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#3. Car salespeople

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 44%

The stereotype of the sleazy car salesman has permeated pop culture for decades. In fact, some of the distrust is understandable: Some known tricks include the hard sell, using bait-and-switch with deals, or high-balling on prices.

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#2. Telemarketers

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 56%

Americans have seen a massive uptick in fraudulent telemarketers, robocalls, and other invasive phone encounters. And because even successful telemarketers hear “no” 96% of the time, they're often ruthless as they try to keep you on the line.

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#1. Members of Congress

Percent of respondents that distrust the profession: 58%

Even though somebody had to vote them in, politicians—particularly our nation's legislators—are the most loathed professionals in America. Though the United States' Congress members should have their constituents' best interests in heart when making laws, they're often influenced by special interest groups, lobbyists, and party lines.

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