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Americans have such dim views of the honesty and ethical standards of advertising practitioners that they place them alongside the oft-disdained members of Congress. So finds the latest annual Gallup report on honesty and ethics in professions, which finds just three rated as being less trustworthy than advertisers.

Those three? The illustrious members of Congress (/sarcasm), car salespeople, and lobbyists.

In fact, just 12% of US adults surveyed would rate the honesty and ethical standards of advertising practitioners as “high” or “very high.” Instead, almost 3 times more (34%) would rate their standards as “low” or “very low.”

To put these figures in context, adults are almost three times more likely to trust auto mechanics (32%) as they are advertising practitioners (12%).

The 12% level of trust this year is well within the range set in recent years. Last year, that figure stood at 11%. In both 2015 and 2014, 10% rated advertising professionals highly, while in 2013 the figure was a little higher – at 14%. That was the joint highest rating recorded going back as far as 2001.

If there’s any optimism to be gleaned, it’s that fewer adults in 2017 than in 2016 (34%, versus 40%) rated advertising practitioners’ ethical standards as “low” or “very low.” This also comes at a time when there are indications that trust in advertising may be on the rise. Earlier in 2017, Gallup also found that people’s perception of the advertising and PR industry had improved, though it too remained low. Some 38% viewed the industry in a positive light, versus 31% seeing it in a negative light.

Overall, the five most-highly rated professions for honesty and ethics in 2017 (among those measured) were:

  • Nurses (82% rating as “high” or “very high”);
  • Military officers (71%);
  • Grade school teachers (66%);
  • Medical doctors (65%); and
  • Pharmacists (62%).

Reaching new survey highs in trust were auto mechanics (32%), newspaper reporters (25%), car salespeople (10%) and lobbyists (8%), though all save car salespeople are only measured every few years, and trust remains low for each.

Separately, just 16% rate the honesty and ethical standards of business executives highly, the lowest figure since 2010 (15%). Early last year the Edelman Trust Barometer report revealed that just 37% of general population respondents around the world find CEOs to be credible, an all-time low. At the time, Edelman said that business stood “on the brink of mistrust.”

About the Data: The results are based on telephone interviews conducted December 4-11, 2017 with a random sample of 1,409 US adults (18+).

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