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Institutions: It’s a Matter of Trust


Last year, Gallup released a poll which found that confidence was in a free fall for many leading societal institutions. For example, only 32% expressed having a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the church or organized religion.” That was down from 37% in 2021.

In a follow-up poll, Gallup decided to determine the ethics ratings of leading professions in the U.S. Nearly all professions show some decline in honesty/ethics ratings.

Nurses remain the most trusted profession, with 78% of U.S. adults currently believing nurses have high honesty and ethical standards. “At the other end of the spectrum, members of Congress, senators, car salespeople and advertising practitioners are viewed as the least ethical, with ratings in the single digits.”

Only four other professions, beside nurses, garnered majority-level positive ratings: engineers, dentists, medical doctors and pharmacists.

None of this may be surprising.

What may be surprising is the profession that had one of the largest percentage drops in perceived ethics and honesty, giving the profession a new low in Gallup’s history of polling:


In 2019, 40% felt clergy were honest and ethical; that dropped to 32% in 2023, the lowest it’s ever been charted. Don’t let that slide by. It means that less than one-third of all Americans consider clergy to be honest and ethical. I suppose one could take heart that clergy are still more trusted than politicians, lawyers and journalists.

This is concerning on any number of fronts, not least of which is the biblical qualification of church leadership that “people outside the church must speak well” of them (I Tim. 3:7, NLT). Further, there is the admonition to be “careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior” (I Peter 2:12, NLT). In other words, the very thing the Bible says should disqualify someone from serving as a church leader is the very thing that the majority of Americans believe to be true of them.

Things aren’t helped by the growing number of Americans who don’t even know a pastor, do not belong to a church, and/or who don’t identify with any particular faith.

 So what can be done?