Emily Swanson | December 9, 2009
11/20-22/09; 1,017 adults, 4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
For the first time in Gallup's annual Honesty and Ethics of Professions poll, a majority of Americans -- 55% -- say the honesty and ethical standards of "members of Congress" are low or very low -- slightly worse than "senators," whose ethics are rated low by 49%. By contrast, 83% of Americans say nurses have either very high or high ethical standards, positioning them at the top of Gallup's 2009 ranking of various professions.
A similar pattern occurred in the early 1990s, spanning a series of scandals starting with the "Keating Five" and the related savings and loan crisis, the House banking scandal, and the House post office scandal that resulted in the conviction of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski in 1996. However the percentage "low"/"very low" rating during that period topped out at 46% in 1995, lower than today's figure. For most of the past two decades, more Americans have typically said the ethical standards of members of Congress are low than have called them high. However, the spread between these two views is now the widest seen.