Do most trusted people work in the least trusted professions?

30 June 2014

The Readers Digest Trust Survey is unlikely to have much statistical reliability but in each of the last ten years has given some sort of validation to lists described as the most trusted professions and the most trusted individuals. The process is that respondents are asked to place nominated professions and individuals in a pecking order.

There is a consistency year on year about the perceived trustworthiness of professions – many of the 50 identified are occupational groups not traditionally regarded as professions. Firefighters, Paramedics, Rescue volunteers, Pilots and Nurses top the list, and the least trusted are assessed to be Car Salespeople, Sex workers, Politicians, Door to Door salespeople and Telemarkers. (Paramedics and Rescue Volunteers are paired as equally trusted, as are Politicians and Sex workers, and also Lawyers and Airport Baggage Handlers!).

State servants are not included as a unique professional group.

Journalists, as in previous years, do not inspire much trust – rating 43rd, between Call Centre staff  and Real Estate agents. Possibly conflicting with that assessment is the ranking of the 50 most trusted individuals… there are at least 20 on the list who are media or TV personalities.

This week is Leadership Week in New Zealand. Many CEOs will feature in media items. Ironically in the ranking of professions, CEOs at 41st are very much among the “also rans”  This sits uncomfortably with the observation in the Reader’s Digest report by a psychologist, that “the people we trust are those we feel we can rely on – people who are intrinsically stable and dependable.”

Almost everyone on the list of New Zealand’s most trust individuals is either prominent in sport, as a media personality or as a politician.  Willie Apiata VC , who remains in 1st place, is the obvious exception.
2014’s most trusted professionals
1. Firefighters
2. Paramedics
2. Rescue volunteers
4. Nurses
5. Pilots
6. Doctors
7. Pharmacists
8. Veterinarians
9. Armed Forces personnel
10. Police
11. Teachers
11. Scientists
13. Childcare workers
14. Farmers
14. Dentists
16. Bus/train/tram drivers
16. Flight attendants
18. Chefs
18. Electricians
20. Hairdressers
21. Architects
21. Plumbers
23. Builders
23. Postal workers
25. Authors
25. Waiters
27. Mechanics
27. Truck drivers
27. IT technicians
30. Accountants
31. Shop assistants
32. Cleaners
32. Bankers
32. Personal trainers
35. Taxi drivers
36. Charity collectors
37. Lawyers
37. Airport baggage handlers
39. Clergy (all religions)
40. Financial planners
41. CEOs
42. Call centre staff
43. Journalists
44. Real estate agents
45. Insurance salespeople
46. Car salespeople
47. Sex workers
47. Politicians
49. Door-to-door salespeople
49. Telemarketers

Politicians fall off list of trusted occupations

21 June 2011

Public trust and confidence in politicians seems to be universally low.  In the Readers Digest somewhat unscientific annual survey of occupations most trusted by New Zealanders, published yesterday, politicians have slipped even lower than in 2010. Last year they rated in 38th place, below sex workers.  This year, they don’t make the top 39 occupational groups, probably because  new caring professions – rescue workers and para medics – have joined the list, influenced by the disasters at Pike River and Christchurch.  Firemen, again, are the most trusted according to the survey.

A more considered report about misbehaving politicians was tabled in the Canadian Parliament last week by the Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. She indicated that MPs should be made subject to a code of conduct.  Her Commission investigates abuse of conflicts of interest regulations, but has no role in managing the distasteful personal attacks, misleading statements and inappropriate behaviour by MPs, which cause many public complaints.

Ross Robertson MP has been attempting since 2003 to get the New Zealand Parliament to enact an Ethics Bill that will impose a code of conduct  on its Members. He has not yet been able to marshal sufficient support from among his colleagues, who feel they are adequately policed by Standing Orders and Speaker’s Rules. Ministers are also subject to the requirements of the Cabinet Manual.–ethics-watchdog-lacks-bite-says-it-might-be-time-for-mp-code-of-conduct

New South Wales Premier has feet of clay after all

16 April 2014

Politicians always rate poorly in surveys of trust and confidence. The perception is of subordinating public service to self interest, of putting reelection above the idealism that first motivated a career in politics. There is a tolerance for business being self-interested while doing work that promotes society as a whole, but not for politicians.  The 2014 Edelman Trust barometer published in January indicated that public confidence in business was higher in 27 countries surveyed, than confidence in government.  In the US the difference was as bad as it had ever been.

Australian state politics is seldom well regarded.  Last year only 3% of Australians said that had “a lot of trust” in political parties.   Yesterday, the gloss seemed to come off the New South Wales Premier.  He came to power promising trustworthy government.  In opposition he had been unceasing in his condemnation of corrupt practices of the State’s then Labor government.  He championed the work of the Independent Commission against Corruption.  But this week evidence he gave to ICAC was established as untrue. The Premier described it as a significant memory failure.

His immediate resignation in the face ICAC disclosing a note from him, thanking a business connection currently the subject of ICAC interest,  for support and the gift of a $3000 bottle of wine, was described by the Australian Prime Minister as  “utterly honourable.” “This is honour and integrity…the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics…”

The Prime Minister spoke of his “enormous respect and admiration” for the Premier although the incident seems to have taken media attention away from the announcement of government support for the construction of a second Sydney airport

The Premier claimed that he had innocently and inadvertently misled ICAC, that he had no recollection of receiving the wine or of writing the thank you note. He had no intention to deceive. Bob Carr, a former NSW Premier has described “a debauched ethos of mate ship” among the State’s politicians.

The New Zealand Readers Digest 2013 survey of trust in 50 occupations ranked politicians in 46th place, ahead only of sex workers, car salesmen, door to door salespeople and telemarketers.

Would you trust a politician?

14 December 2011

Over the last few years bankers have been scorned in public opinion. Once a respected profession, they took a place near the bottom of the list of occupations having public respect and confidence frequently held by politicians. In Britain it would seem that journalists may earn that slot this year as the phone hacking scandal continues to contaminate some elements of the media.

But in the United States politicians continue to be the occupation for which most people show distrust. “Sixty-four percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress as ‘low’ or ‘very low’ tying the record ‘low / very low’ rating”  Gallup has measured for any profession historically. Gallup has asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of numerous professions since 1976, including annually since 1990.”

Not surprisingly in the poll conducted at the end of November in which Americans rated honesty and ethical standards, nurses, pharmacists, and doctors scored best of the 21 professions tested. At the other end of the spectrum, members of Congress, lobbyists, car salespeople, and telemarketers.were seen as the least honest and ethical. In 2001, 22% rated the honesty and ethics of politicians as very low or low; it is now 64%. They view lobbyists just as poorly.  “Nurses consistently top the list, having done so each year since they were first included in 1999.”

Survey results in New Zealand are similar. Although the Readers Digest ‘trusted occupations’ survey year on year shows that greatest confidence is placed in firefighters, more scientific studies all have nurses, doctors, police officers and teachers in the top positions, in a largely unchanging order.

The UMR Mood of the Nation survey last year ranked 15 occupation. Nurses were top with a rating of 8.6, Public Servants were 8th with 6.2 and politicians at 14th on 4.7. This year’s UMR results should be published later this month. There is unlikely to be much of a change.

Declining voter participation in general elections may reflect this low level of confidence in politicians. However the World Values Survey last conducted in New Zealand 2005 rated confidence in political parties at 25% , not substantially different from findings in comparable surveys in 1985 and 1998.