From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church and Clergy Still Not the "Most Trusted"

Date 12 May 1996 20:18:20

May 9, 1996 
96139     Church And Clergy Still Not The "Most Trusted" 
            by George H. Gallup Jr. and Robert Bezilla 
                 New York Times Special Features 
           distributed by United Methodist News Service 
PRINCETON, N.J.--Public esteem for church and clergy has slipped in recent 
years, but they still enjoy greater confidence than the public opinion 
analysts who write this column or the journalists who edit it. 
     Until the late 1980s, the church, or "organized religion," enjoyed the 
utmost confidence of the public, leading all other institutions.  Two out 
of three Americans named the church as an institution worthy of the most 
     Since then, there has been some erosion, to the point where only 
slightly more than half of Americans still say they place great trust in 
     Religion (57 percent) now takes third place behind such institutions 
as the military (64 percent) and the police (58 percent). 
     On an absolute basis there has been some improvement over the previous 
two years, but in relative terms religion has dropped to third place for 
the first time. 
     There has been a slight drop in the last 10 years in the public's 
rating of the clergy (to 56 percent) on honesty and ethics, and as a group 
they are now second to pharmacists (66 percent) as the profession most 
esteemed in this report by the citizenry. 
     They are in good company, ranking slightly ahead of doctors (54 
percent), dentists (54 percent), engineers (53 percent) and college 
professors (52 percent). 
     They are more than twice as likely as journalists (23 percent) or 
public opinion researchers (25 percent) to receive top ratings. 
     In the view of the public, those most lacking in honesty and ethics 
include senators (12 percent) and members of congress (10 percent), lawyers 
(16 percent), real estate agents (15 percent), and insurance agents (11 
percent), advertising people (10 percent) and car dealers (5 percent). 
     In 1995, 56 percent of the population ranked the honesty and ethics of 
the clergy as "high" or "very high."  One-third of the populace view the 
clergy as only average in this respect, but less than one in 10 suggests 
their morals are low. 
     The results are based on telephone interviews with randomly selected 
national samples of 1,000 adults, ages 18 and older.  The margin of error 
could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

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  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
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