Clergy Less than Trusted than Ever

The headline in Huffington Post: “Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds.” Only 37% rate their honesty and ethical standards highly. This puts them in the middle of the pack – just below funeral directors and above journalists. Only 31% of Catholics give their clergy positive rating ratings versus 44% of Protestants. These are the lowest ratings for clergy since the inception of the survey in 1977.

The data clearly reflects the major child abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. The first major scandal in Louisiana is reflected in the mid-80’s drop from 67% - a high rating comparable to that of doctors – to 55%, about that of cops. The scandal in Boston is reflected in 2002’s sharp decline to 52% from 64%. Scandals under Pope Francis have led to steady declines to a record low. The fact that only 31% of Catholics give priests positive ratings for honesty and ethical standards does not bode well for those who claim to be Christ’s representatives. While ratings improved after the scandal in Louisiana, even after a relatively uneventful decade, they did not fully recover.

Other Professions

Not surprisingly, members of Congress are given the lowest ratings for honesty and integrity. This has been the case for many years. But keep in mind that incumbent congressman are invariably re-elected. People believe that their own congressman is the rare exception.

Medical professionals top the list for integrity, with nurses outpacing doctors and pharmacists by a substantial margin.

Businessmen rate surprisingly poorly, especially those involved in sales. Executives are given lower ratings than labor union leaders, and union memberships keep dwindling.

Ratings for journalists are particularly interesting. Overall, they rate just behind clergy. But the overall ratings are misleading. Detailed results from Gallup show that only 10% of Republicans give journalists positive ratings – they reject unpleasant facts as “fake news.” On the other hand, 54% of Democrats give journalists positive ratings – the same as cops, who rate highly. (Independents fall almost exactly in the middle, with 31%.)

The results seem counterintuitive to me, but I am an outlier. They probably provide a useful reality check.


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