Americans Continue to Rank Advertising Professionals Low in Ethics and Honesty

January 17, 2020

Gallup Honesty Ethical Standards of Professions Jan2020Once again this year, advertising professionals rank among the least trusted professionals in the US. The most recent Gallup report on honesty and ethics in professions puts advertising practitioners, along with insurance salespeople and Senators, tied for 3rd from the bottom of the rankings in trust, just above members of Congress and car salespeople.

Only about one-eighth (13%) of the more than 1,000 US adults polled said they would rate the honesty and ethical standards of advertising practitioners as “high” or “very high.” In a slight increase from last year, more than three times as many (40%) respondents report having a “low” or “very low” opinion of this profession’s standards.

The percentage of adults who rank those in the advertising profession highly remains unchanged from last year after improving from 12% in 2017, 11% in 2016 and 10% in both 2015 and 2014.

Broken down by demographic there is little difference between males (12%) and females (14%) who rate advertising practitioners’ honesty and ethical standards “high” or “very high.” However, more non-white adults (18%) give advertising professionals high ratings compared to white adults (10%). A similar gap exists between younger adults (18-34 years, 16%) and older adults (55+, 11%) and high school graduates (19%) versus college graduates (9%).

The five most trusted professions for honesty and ethics in 2019 (among those surveyed) were:

  • Nurses (85% rating as “high” or “very high”);
  • Engineers (66%);
  • Medical Doctors (65%);
  • Pharmacists (64%); and
  • Dentists (61%).

Journalism, which had made a 10 percentage point leap between 2016 and 2018, dropped slightly in 2019 with 28% of respondents giving them a “high” or “very high” rating for honesty and ethical standards. This puts journalists on par with bankers, who have been slowly gaining favor over the past few years. However, while mistrust in bankers is relatively steady, the share of respondents who believe journalists’ standards are “low” or “very low” increased from 34% in 2018 to 37% in 2019.

These findings are supported by an earlier Gallup survey that showed that American’s trust in mass media has dropped in the past year, although it remains higher than in 2016 when it hit a historic low.

Meanwhile, the public’s view of business executives has improved, with 20% of respondents giving the profession high marks in ethics in 2019 (up from 17% in 2018). This corresponds with data from last year’s Edelman’s Trust Barometer which showed that, globally, peoples’ trust in business as an institution had increased somewhat.

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

About the Data: The responses are based on 1,025 telephone interviews of US adults (18+) conducted in December 2019.

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