In the annual 2023 Gallup poll on honesty and ethics in professions in the U.S., the good news for the human capital of health care is that nurses, physicians and pharmacists continue to lead Americans’ ratings across professions in first, second, and third place respectively.
The bummer is that that trust equity has eroded in the past year — especially among health citizens who identify as Republican voters.
Start with the upside, which is the perennial Gallup finding that health care’s front-line workers are the most-trusted professions in the U.S.
And again, an historic finding over many years, that people in the adveritising industries, car salespeople, and Members of Congress rank lowest in this study.
In 2023, the update is that telemarketers rank even lower than Members of Congress.
Now, to the more nuanced finding this year that Americans’ trust in our front-line health care staff has ticked downward.
Here’s the line chart showing the downward data for honesty and ethics among nurses (still tops in our hearts and heads), doctors, and pharmacists. who at the most enthusiastic level of trust rank with high school teachers and just above police officers.
Looking back to the top chart, it’s clear that health care professions continue to rank tops in Americans’ trust barometers compared with all other professions by a wide margin, when summing up “very high” and “high” levels of trust.
Now to the partisan schism.
Nurses continue to rank tops in trust, but with a 10 percentage point difference between Democrats/leaners at 86 percent, versus Republicans/leaners at 76 percent.
For doctors, the chasm of trust is even greater at 19 percent points, with 73 percent among trusting Dems and 54 percent for Republicans.
Pharmacists, interestingly, have the smallest delta different cross-party ID of only 5 percentage points, but this is from a lower base of 63 v. 58 percent.
Comparing other professions, the largest partisan differences are seen among:
On the pro-Dem trust scorecard,
- High school teachers, at a whopping 36 trust-points difference Dem v GOP
- Journalists, with a delta of 32 points, Dem v GOP
- Labor union leaders with a difference of 26 point.
On the pro-GOP trust scorecard,
- Police officers, with a delta of 24 points pro-GOP, and,
- Clergy, with a 9 point difference.
Gallup conducted this annual poll between November 9 and December 2, 2022.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: I’ve excerpted these paragraphs from Gallup’s write-up of the study.
As Gallup concludes, most Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents, as well as Republicans and leaners, believe that nurses, physicians and pharmacists have high ethical standards.
However, the overall declines in the ethics ratings of health professionals “are driven by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents,” Gallup concludes. Before the pandemic, the Gallup poll revealed trust-equivalence for health care human capital across political parties.
Democrats’ ranking of ethics in these professions have returned to pre-pandemic levels of trust, whereas for the GOP members and leaners — now significantly lower than in 2019.
We will each of us have a view on the implications of the year’s Gallup poll. To me, hearkening back to death-bed confession videos of patients succumbing to the coronavirus in 2020 when the first vaccines were made available — people who had shunned the vaccine due to politics or science denials — I turn to the old phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.”
We must bolster our nurses’, physicians’, and pharmacists’ well-being with our eyes and resources focused on the Quadruple Aim. If we do not prioritize this in 2023, this precious human capital embodied by these front-line workers will continue to erode (not just the trust but the supply and productivity of the resource). This will endanger all of our health regardless of our political party identification — public/macro, community, family and individual.