Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

News flash: Most Americans don't think Congress is honest

December 4, 2012 by NCC Staff


An annual Gallup poll shows that U.S. senators and Congress members get the overall lowest marks for honesty and ethics among 22 professions listed in a recent survey.

While in its press release Gallup indicated that car salespeople have the fewest percent of people who give them top marks for honesty, when you add up all the “low” and “very low” marks, Congress is a last-place finisher.

The combined percent of low and very low scores for senators is 55 percent of all people polled, with the entire Congress (the Senate and House) gets a combined low score of 54 percent.

Car salespeople are third from the bottom at 49 percent, while stockbrokers (39 percent) and lawyers (38 percent) round out the bottom five.

To be fair, Gallup didn’t include a few low-scoring professions in this year’s polling, such as lobbyists and telemarketers.

In the 2011 survey, Congress members tied with lobbyists and car salespeople for the lowest percent of “high” or “very high” marks in the survey.

In historic terms, the public opinion of Congress has changed very little from 1997, when only 12 percent of Americans gave the politicians high marks for honesty and integrity. The 2012 figure was 10 percent.

The highest rating since the 1970s for Congress was in November 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 25 percent of Americans gave Congress high marks for integrity.

Since then, Congress has tumbled to a historically low level of 7 percent in 2011. So its performance this year is actually an improvement.

Four professions were closely grouped together as getting the highest marks for honesty: nurses, pharmacists, engineers, and clergy.

Recent Constitution Daily Stories

Can the United Nations really tax and censor the Internet? Why the fiscal cliff is like getting a huge paycheck cut How John Quincy Adams’ ugly win changed politics forever

Gallup also didn’t include some historically high-ranking jobs in the 2012 poll, such as high school teachers. It has also screened out the military and firefighters from the poll since 2001, since they had extremely high ratings for honesty and integrity.

The Gallup poll mirrors similar results from the AP-National Constitution Center poll from earlier this year.

Congress was ranked as the second least-trusted of all American institutions, only ahead of the online news media and independent or citizen media. Congress still ranked low in the AP-NCC Poll, with just 11 percent of people giving Congress high confidence marks.

A June survey from Gallup showed Congress had the lowest grades from the public when it came to confidence in public institutions. The next lowest institutions were big business and television news.


Sign up for our email newsletter