Members of Congress Among Least Trusted Professionals, Poll Shows

A new Gallup survey shows that only one in 10 Americans rates the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress as "very high" or "high," a slightly better rating than that of car salespeople who hit the bottom of the list of 22 professions.

Asked to rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress, 54 percent of Americans said lawmakers on Capitol Hill have low or very low ethical standards, with only 10 percent saying the elected officials have high or very high standards, according to a new Gallup survey released Monday.

The lawmaking body is second lowest on a list of 22 professions measured – higher only than car salespeople who had 8 percent approval rating. What's more, members of Congress have the dubious distinction of having the largest "very low" or "low" rating of any profession tested this year – 54 percent, though this is higher than car salespeople with 49 percent.

Members of Congress have had consistently low approval rating for more than three and a half decades, Gallup notes. The high point was in November 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when one-fourth of Americans rated their honesty and ethical standards as very high or high. Last year's 7 percent honesty rating for Congressmen and Congresswomen was the lowest on record.

The results from Gallup's Nov. 26-29 update of the perceived honesty and ethical standards of professions come as Congress remains involved in protracted negotiations over the pending "fiscal cliff" that could disrupt the nation's economy if not addressed by Jan. 1.

Senators fared slightly better than members of Congress in the poll. While 14 percent said members of the Senate had high or very high levels of honesty and ethics, 45 percent said their honesty and ethical standards were low or very low. And 20 percent said state governors had high or very high standards for honesty and ethics.

Professions with high honesty ratings include nurses, pharmacists, medical doctors, engineers, police officers, college teachers, and the clergy. More than half of Americans (52 percent) said the clergy have high or very high standards, as compared to 85 percent approval rating for nurses, who topped the list.

Journalists did slightly better than politicians, with 24 percent of Americans giving the media high marks for honesty and ethics.

In the survey, 1,015 adults were interviewed by telephone from November 26 through November 29, weeks after the campaign season ended on Election Day. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.