Clergy have traditionally held a revered place in American society, but new research from Gallup shows that the public’s view of faith leaders’ honesty and ethical standards is at a new low.

When asked, “How would you rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in the clergy?” 47 percent of those surveyed said very high or high, with 11 percent giving a low or very low rating.

This year marks the first time since Gallup started asking the question in 1977 that less than 50 percent of respondents rated clergy as having a high or very high rating for this measure.

Gallup Poll Offers Up Some Bad News for American Religious Leaders

Credit: Gallup

The overall negative trend line has ticked up over the past few decades, with favorability ratings on honesty generally remaining steady until this year.

Clergy rank seventh overall when compared to Americans’ views on other popular professions. Nurses (82 percent), pharmacists (70 percent), grade school teachers (70 percent), medical doctors (69 percent), military officers (69 percent) and police officers (54 percent) have the six highest ratings.

The least trusted professions are car sales people (9 percent), members of Congress (8 percent) and lobbyists (6 percent).

Gallup Poll Offers Up Some Bad News for American Religious Leaders

Credit: Gallup

Gallup did note in its analysis that stereotypes help to shape Americans’ views on various professions. Those who heal or provide health aid are generally ranked at the top; these careers, teamed with police, teachers and military, hold a special place in many Americans’ hearts and, thus, likely rank higher because of their service to the community.

As for clergy, news stories over the past 15 years might be having an impact on honesty ratings.

“If views of a certain profession have changed, it usually has been a function of scandal surrounding it,” Gallup explained. “The Catholic priest abuse stories from the early 2000s helped lead to a sharp drop in Americans’ ratings of clergy, a decline from which the profession has yet to fully recover.”

The poll results are based on telephone interviews with 1,031 adults, aged 18 and older, which were conducted on Dec. 5-8, 3013, with a ±4 percentage points margin of error.

(H/T: Christianity Today)

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