15 Professions With the Most Unethical People, According to Americans

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Some professions just naturally seem to be full of honest and ethical people. We expect good people to be working in careers that allow them to help others like teaching and medicine, for example.

But in the eyes of many, other professions seem more likely to attract the ne’er-do-wells among us.

For its latest annual Honesty and Ethics poll, Gallup asked more than 1,000 adults from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., about their perception of the honesty and ethical standards of workers in various fields. A handful of professions ranked at the very bottom of the list.

Gallup actually conducts this survey annually but does not ask about the same professions every year. So to create our ranking, we took all professions from the past three surveys for which less than 15% of survey respondents rated their honesty and ethical standards as “high” or “very high.”

Based on the surveys from those three years, these are the professions that people are least likely to say have honest and ethical workers.

Bankers

Silicon Valley Bank
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 19%

The share of survey participants who hold bankers in high regard when it comes to ethical standards has been falling in recent years. It’s now down 10 percentage points from a recent peak of 29% in 2020.

Perhaps it’s no wonder, though, given all the banks that failed or saw their credit rating downgraded — or both — in 2023 alone.

Journalists

Journalist
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 19%

As few Americans as ever — only 32%, to be exact — trust the mass media “a great deal” or even “a fair amount” to report news fully, fairly and accurately, according to a separate Gallup poll conducted in late 2023.

Newspaper reporters

The New York Times headquarters in New York City
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 17%

Apparently, Americans have even lower regard for the ethical standards of journalists who work at newspapers specifically than they do for journalists in general.

In fairness, though, the ratings of the two groups are from different years: Gallup asked survey participants about journalists in 2023 (when 19% rated their ethics highly) but hasn’t asked about newspaper reporters since 2021 (when 17% rated their ethics highly).

State governors

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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 16%

Governors have been making headlines over the past year, with several current and former governors having announced (and subsequently suspended) campaigns for the Republican nomination for president. If Gallup’s findings are any indication, though, Americans haven’t liked what they’ve seen or heard of these politicians.

On the upside, governors fared better than three other types of politicians included in Gallup’s poll. (More on them coming up shortly.)

Lawyers

2 men business lawyers work talking
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 16%

The share of survey participants who hold lawyers in high regard when it comes to their honesty and ethics is the lowest it has been since 2009, when it was a mere 13%.

Business executives

Angry boss
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 12%

The stereotype is that business executives are overpaid, yet always greedy for more cash. Fair or not, that tainted reputation might help explain why Gallup found that few Americans hold these folks in high regard.

Insurance salespeople

Senior working at a laptop in a business suit
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 12%

Insurance policies are complex and full of hard-to-understand jargon. The confusing nature of insurance policies can leave people feeling vulnerable to manipulative sales tactics — especially since salespeople typically make commissions. For that, many stay skeptical of their intentions.

Stockbroker

Man reviewing stocks and making investment decisions
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 12%

Some stockbrokers are compensated based on the trades they make for their clients. This conflict of interest could mean consumers take a big loss while stockbrokers financially benefit.

State officeholders

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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 12% (as of the 2021 survey)

Members of Congress really draw the ire of voters, but state officeholders don’t rank much better. If being loved and respected is important to you, it’s probably best to steer clear of running for office.

Advertising practitioners

businessman hiding behind desk
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 8%

If someone’s job is to try to sell you something — usually in the hope that you will put money in his or her pocket — it stands to reason that you may be suspicious of that individual. Nobody likes being manipulated, which might help explain why advertising practitioners are on this list.

Car salespeople

car salesman
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 8%

Almost nobody enjoys buying a car, and pushy salespeople are a big part of the reason why. Not everyone at the dealership acts this way, but those who do have given the profession a bad name in the eyes of many Americans.

U.S. senators

U.S. Senate chambers
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 8%

People on either side of the aisle generally don’t approve of how members of the U.S. Congress, including senators, do their jobs. They may not only be viewed as being unproductive but their ethics are called into question when wealthy donors or other conflicts of interest arise.

U.S. House representatives

U.S. House of Representatives
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 6%

The dislike of members of Congress is among the few things that can unite Americans despite the red/blue divide. Gallup found that nearly equal low percentages of Democrats (10%) and Republicans (8%) said they view the honesty and ethics of Congress members as “high” or “very high.”

Telemarketers

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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 6% (as of the 2022 survey)

Anyone who has ever had their dinner interrupted by a telemarketer probably understands why people in this field aren’t viewed as honest and ethical by many survey respondents.

If you hate being badgered by unwanted calls, check out “8 Easy Ways You Can Stop Robocalls.”

Lobbyists

Lobbyist
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Respondents who rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in this field as “high” or “very high”: 5% (as of the 2021 survey)

In both the U.S. and Western Europe, large percentages of people believe the political system needs a major overhaul. Many believe the role of lobbyists long has had a corrosive effect on government affairs.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that just 5% of the Gallup survey respondents believe lobbyists are people of high standards.

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