The Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandal has sent the public's view of clergy to its lowest point ever, 12 points below last year's rating, according to a new Gallup poll.
Asked to rate the honesty and ethics of 21 professions, just 52 percent of Americans gave high marks to clergy, down from 64 percent last year. Confidence in clergy reached its peak, at 67 percent, in 1985. Catholics gave lower honesty ratings to their clergy than did Protestants. Just 50 percent of Catholics gave high ratings to their clergy, compared to 57 percent of Protestants. Both ratings are down from five years ago.
Gallup pollsters said clergy ratings also dropped between 1992 and 1994, the last time the Catholic church wrestled with a sex abuse scandal. Overall, clergy ranked fourth among all professions, behind nurses (79 percent), military officers (65 percent), and high school teachers (64 percent). Business executives, who also suffered this year in the wake of the Enron, WorldCom, and Martha Stewart scandals, drew just 17 percent approval ratings, down from 25 percent last year. At the bottom of the professions list were car salesmen (6 percent) and telemarketers (5 percent). The telephone poll of 1,017 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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Business people rate low on ethics—The Cincinnati Enquirer (Dec. 14, 2002)1