Public Trust in Advertising Practitioners’ Integrity Worsens

January 29, 2021

Gallup Honesty Ethical Standards of Professions Jan2021Another year has gone by and advertising professionals’ standing among the least trusted professions in the US has not improved. The most recent annual Gallup report on honesty and ethics in professions puts advertising practitioners just slightly better than car salespeople and members of Congress.

Only one-tenth of the more than 1,000 US adults surveyed said they would rate the honesty and ethical standards of advertising practitioners as “very high” or “high.” Even more telling, more than four times as many (43%) of those surveyed said they had a “very low” or “low” opinion of the standards in the advertising profession — an increase from the 40% who said the same last year.

Although the percentage of adults who rank those in the advertising profession highly appeared to be on the rise during the past few years, climbing slightly to 13% in 2019 and 2018 from 12% in 2017, it has now dropped back down to what it was in 2015 and 2014.

In looking at the demographics breakdown, there is little difference between the percentage of males (10%) and females (12%) who rate advertising practitioners’ honesty and ethical standards “very high” or “high.” That changes when looking at race, with close to three times as many non-white adults (20%) giving advertising professionals a high rating than white adults (6%). A gap also exists between younger adults (18-34 years, 13%) and older adults (55+, 8%) as well as between high school graduates (17%) and college graduates (6%).

The five most trusted professions for honesty and ethics in 2020 (among those surveyed) are as follows:

  • Nurses (89% rating as “very high” or “high”);
  • Medical doctors (77%);
  • Grade-school teachers (75%);
  • Pharmacists (71%); and
  • Police officers (52%).

Trust in journalists remains steady – and low, with 28% of respondents giving them a “very high” or “high” rating for honesty and ethical standards in both 2020 and 2019. However, those who rated their standards as “very low” or “low” rose 3 percentage points over 2019 to 40%.

Finally, the public’s view of business executives has slipped slightly. Only 17% of respondents gave business executives’ ethics and honesty high marks, compared to 20% in 2019.

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

About the Data: The responses are based on 1,018 telephone interviews of US adults (18+) conducted in December 2020.

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