Trust in Clergy in US Declines to Historic Low, Gallup Poll Finds
By Jardine Malado
January 8, 2018
A recent Gallup poll has found that less than half of Americans believe that clergy members are honest and have high ethical standards.
The poll, titled "Americans' Ratings of Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions," has revealed that trust in the clergy has declined from a high of 67 percent in 1985 to its lowest rating of 42 percent in 2017.
The number of people who have said that clergy has "very high" or "high" honesty standards have dropped precipitously in 2002 amid the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The clergy's ratings recovered slightly in the next few years, but it fell to 50 percent in 2009, and it has declined steadily since that time.
Clergy have been ranked behind judges (43 percent), day care providers (46 percent), police officers (56 percent), pharmacists (62 percent), medical doctors (65 percent), grade school teachers (66 percent), military officers (71 percent), and nurses (82 percent) as the most honest and ethical profession.
Religious breakdowns of the data provided to Christianity Today indicated that self-identified Christians are almost twice as likely to still have faith in religious leaders. Almost half of 776 Christian respondents said pastors had high ethical standards, but only a quarter of 236 non-Christian respondents agreed.
Non-Christians are more likely to trust grade school teachers, judges and newspaper reporters, while Christians are more likely to trust police officers, auto mechanics and business executives.
The poll also revealed that Republicans and Democrats have sharply different opinions of some professions.
Compared to Democrats, Republicans are more likely to rate police officers, military officers, clergy, pharmacists and judges "high" or "very high" on honesty and ethics.
On the other hand, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to view television and newspaper reporters as honest, although the Democrat's honesty ratings for the profession still fall below the 50 percent mark.
Nurses, medical doctors and pharmacists have been rated highest for honesty and ethical standards, a trend that has been continuing for years.
Pharmacists have been ranked at the top of the list for the year, but the honesty rating dropped in the last year due to the U.S. opioid epidemic.
At the bottom of the list were the lobbyists, which have been consistently ranked as the least trustworthy profession by Christians, non-Christians and members of every political party.
Gallup noted that while the clergy is still not at the bottom of the list of professions, this year's poll results represent "a new low for a profession with image problems in recent years."
Previous studies conducted by Gallup have found that dynamic pastors are less of a draw for churchgoers than the sermon itself.