“Member Of Congress” Viewed As Least Ethical Profession

A new Gallup poll provides yet another demonstration of just how badly the public views Congress these days:

Sixty-four percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress as “low” or “very low,” tying the record “low”/”very low” rating Gallup has measured for any profession historically. Gallup has asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of numerous professions since 1976, including annually since 1990. Lobbyists also received a 64% low honesty and ethics rating in 2008.

This year’s update, from a Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Gallup poll, finds Americans rating the honesty and ethical standards of 3 medical professions — nurses, pharmacists, and doctors — the highest of the 21 professions tested. At the other end of the spectrum, Americans give the least positive honesty and ethics ratings to members of Congress, lobbyists, car salespeople, and telemarketers.

Here’s the chart:

What’s perhaps most interesting is the extent in which distrust in Congress has skyrocketed over the past decade:

There was an understandable drop in the wake of the September 11th attacks, to levels unseen since before 1976, apparently, but it looks for all the world like it was when the Iraq War started falling apart that the American public starting distrusting government in general, and Congress specifically. The bad economy has likely only worsened those sentiments, and I’m not sure what could happen to turn it all around any time soon.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JKB says:

    I’ve always found it mildly ironic that the honorific “The Honorable” is applied to those we consider the least honorable. It’s like a wish when we use it. A futile challenge for them to rise to their title.

    And, we have this post from Newmark’s Door:

    From “Tips My Dad Says”

    “My father (a lawyer) once told me: ‘Company culture is driven from the top–if it’s the people who make the product, you’re good; sell the product, you’re OK. If the accountants take over, look for another job, and if the lawyers take over, run as fast as you can!”

    Not to engage in nasty, gratuitous, superficial stereotyping, but what is the former occupation of most of the members of the U.S. Congress?

  2. Tano says:

    I’ve always found it mildly ironic that the honorific “The Honorable” is applied to those we consider the least honorable.

    The whole point of establishing a convention to use honorifics toward a category of people is to coerce (through social conformity) acceptance of a notion (e.g. that they are honorable) that one would not likely propose otherwise.

  3. de stijl says:

    It’s the nature of the beast. The job requires you to spin, tell half-truths, flat-out lie, beg for money, curry favor, toe the party line / trade favors with the opposing party (hey, it used to happen!), and generally sell your soul to “succeed”. It’s never going to rated as “highly ethical”.

    The more interesting question is why the rapid escalation since 2001. The Iraq War cannot be the only reason.

  4. Where’s the engineers? We used to be pretty high up on the list of ethical professions.

  5. Eric says:

    I’m surprised police officers are ranked so high as well.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’m surprised clergy rank that high. The scandals in the Roman Catholic church are still on-going.