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Poll: Medical profession deemed most trustworthy

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | December 15, 2011
Internet snake oil salesmen might lead pitches for miracle cures by sowing doubts about the ethics of doctors, often promising to spill the beans on "what your doctor doesn't want you to know!" But according to a new poll, it might be time to retire that approach: it turns out Americans trust the medical profession more than any other.

According to a new Gallup poll released this week, nurses remain the most trusted profession in America, closely followed by pharmacists and doctors. About 84 percent of respondents reported having "very high" or "high" trust in nurses, about 73 percent said the same about pharmacists, and 70 percent about doctors. Only 1 percent of respondents said they had low trust in nurses, 4 percent in pharmacists, and 6 percent in doctors.

This puts the three health care workers well above such stalwarts of trustworthiness as high school teachers (62 percent gave a high/very high rating), police officers (54 percent) and the clergy (52 percent). And it's actually the 12th year that nurses have topped the list, according to the American Nurses Association.

"The public's continued trust in nurses is well-placed, and reflects an appreciation for the many ways nurses provide expert care and advocacy," ANA's President Karen A. Daley said in a statement.

Actually, trust in doctors and pharmacists has been on the increase since at least the mid-1970s, according to Gallup, and this year represents one of their best yet. The rating for doctors beats the previous high in 2006 by one percentage point, Gallup said, and the one for pharmacists ties with that profession's 2006 all-time high. By comparison, in 1976, a measly 56 percent of respondents said doctors were very trustworthy, and in 1981, when Gallup first included pharmacists in its list, they only got a 59 percent.

If the esteem for the medical profession is something of a surprise, the professions that crowded the bottom of the list won't be: lobbyists, members of Congress and car salesmen, who each only got 7 percent of respondents to say they were trustworthy. No one has ever really liked Congress, to be sure - they only got a 15 percent high/very high rating in 1976. But Gallup said this year was their worst-ever, with a whopping 64 percent of respondents saying they had "low" or "very low" ethics or honesty.

The telephone poll was taken between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, with a random sample of 1,012 adults. The sampling error is about 4 percentage points.

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