August 8, 2020

Ethics in Nursing: Honesty and Ethics Among Nurses and Other Professions in Gallup’s 2019 Survey

Earlier this month, Gallup released the results of the latest iteration of its survey of the American public regarding the honesty and ethics of various professional groups. For the eighteenth consecutive year, nurses rated higher in these attributes by a wide margin than all other professions included in the survey. How do these results extend my discussion of last year’s survey?

To refresh our memory, last year I discussed the Gallup honesty and ethics survey in three posts. The first of these provided my initial reactions to the results and some major trends. The second explored the study’s design in some detail. The third considered the data by comparing the nursing and clergy professions.

Now that the 2019 results have been released, I have the opportunity to revisit the trends in the data. Again, the trend data readily available involve the combined Very High and High ratings of the overall honesty and ethical standards of various occupations. For 2019, approximately 85% of respondents rated nurses at these levels, up from approximately 84% in 2018. This is not much of a bump proportionally, as the high of 85% has been reach three times in the past decade, in 2012, 2015, and 2019. For the period 2002-2019, nurses were rated Very High or High an average of 82.7% ± 1.9% each year.

Clergy, on the other hand, were considered to have Very High or High ratings by only approximately 40% of survey respondents, up from approximately 37% in 2018. This is well below the peak of 58% in 2006. For the period 2002-2019, clergy were rated Very High or High an average of 49.6% ± 6.1% each year.

Comparing nurses to clergy again, the statistical trends are even more profound when all data from 2002 to 2019 are included. Considering 2002-2010, nurses were rated Very High/High in honesty by an average of 82.0% ± 1.9% of respondents. From 2011-2019, they were rated similarly (83.4% ± 1.7%, t-test p = 0.12). On the other hand, clergy were rated significantly lower from 2011-2019 (45.0% ± 5.0%) than they were from 2002-2010 (54.2% ± 2.5%, t-test p < 0.001).

Honesty & Ethics of Nurses and Clergy 2002-2019

Notice that the average rating for nurses from 2011-2019 represents an increase from 2002-2010 of approximately 1%. In contrast, the same comparison reveals a decrease in Americans’ average rating of the honesty and ethics of clergy of approximately 9%. However, the variability of the data may be an issue.

There are many more intriguing trends contained in the overall data set, and I hope to explore them this year. What do you make of these trends? What professions are you most interested in comparing?

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