Public Trust in Advertising Practitioners’ Integrity Continues to Lag

January 18, 2022

For yet another year, it looks as though advertising professionals’ standing among the least trusted professions in the US continues to be low. The most recent Gallup report on honesty and ethics in professions puts advertising practitioners above only members of Congress, car salespeople and lobbyists.

Only about one-tenth (11%) of the more than 800 US adults surveyed said they would rate the honesty and ethical standards of advertising practitioners as “very high” or “high.” That’s up just one percentage point from the 10% who said the same last year. Added to that, and perhaps even more telling, almost four times as many (43%) adults surveyed said they had a “very low” or “low” opinion of the standards in the advertising profession — this has remained consistent with last year.

In looking at the demographic breakdown, there is a slight difference between the percentage of males (9%) and females (13%) who rate advertising practitioners’ honesty and ethical standards “very high” or “high.” A similar gap exists when looking at race/ethnicity, with a smaller share of white adults (9%) than non-white adults (15%) giving advertising professionals a high rating. A gap also exists between younger adults (18-34 years, 12%) and older adults (55+, 7%) as well as high school graduates (16%) and college graduates (7%).

The five most trusted professions for honesty and ethics in 2021 (among those surveyed) are as follows:

  • Nurses (81% rating as “very high” or “high”);
  • Medical doctors (67%);
  • Grade-school teachers (64%);
  • Pharmacists (63%); and 
  • Military officers (61%).

Trust in journalists remains low. In a departure from previous surveys, journalism is broken into two categories: newspaper reporters and TV reporters. Some 17% of respondents give newspaper reporters a “very high” or “high” rating for honesty and ethical standards, while 14% rate TV reporters at the same level.

Finally, the public’s view of business executives has decreased again in 2021. Only 14% of respondents gave business executives’ ethics and honesty high marks, compared to 18% in 2020.

A summary of the findings from Gallup can be viewed here.

About the Data: The responses are based on 811 telephone interviews of US adults (18+) conducted in December 2021.

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