Every year Roy Morgan research does a ranking of the most (and least) trusted professions, and every year it provides a generous serving of schadenfreude as politicians, journalists, real estate agents and used car salesmen suffer the ignominy of limping into the bottom few rankings.

But this year for once it’s not just the pollies and journos who are getting their ritualised kicking from a justifiably suspicious public. The trend this year is for everyone to be trusted less, and a few key professions have been sliding down the greasy pole of respectability at an alarmingly rapid rate.

In a phenomenon that can only be dubbed “the Vizard effect” only 15% of Australians, down 8% this year, view business executives as having high or very high standards of ethics and honesty. In addition, there was a significant fall in the image of directors of public companies, down 5% to 18%.

State members of parliament were down 6% to 13% and federal MPs were down 5% to 15%, making John Howard’s efforts to get the electorate to trust him on IR and terror laws an even bigger ask.

According to pollster Gary Morgan it’s not surprising the image of business executives and directors has fallen during 2005 – “a large number have appeared in court for unethical and disgraceful behaviour and controversy rages in the media over the absurd levels of remuneration packages of some business executives and directors.

“It is also unsurprising that there has been a drop in the image of politicians (both State and Federal), due to concern over the sale and direction of Telstra, the release of The Latham Diaries and the negative media coverage surrounding the Federal Government’s proposed Industrial Relations reforms. In addition there has also been significant adverse publicity surrounding a number of state politicians and their departments.”

The nursing profession was down 1% to 89% and is still seen as the most ethical and honest profession, as it has been every year since being included on the survey in 1994. Pharmacists (down 2% to 84%) and doctors (down 1% to 79%) have been consistently named in second and third place, with school teachers (down 3 % to 74%), engineers (down 1% to 68%) and dentists (down 4% to 67%) also regularly rating highly.

Talk-back radio announcers and union leaders saw a small increase in 2005, both up 2% to 19%. The findings (below) are drawn from an Australia-wide survey of professional ethics and honesty conducted on November 17/18, 2005 for which 640 people aged 14 and over were interviewed by telephone.

Occupation % Change
from 2004
1 Nurses 89 -1
2 Pharmacists 84 -2
3 Doctors 79 -1
4 School teachers 74 -3
5 Engineers 68 -1
6 Dentists 67 -4
7 Police 65 1
8 State Supreme Court Judges 65 0
9 High Court Judges 64 1
10 University lecturers 64 -2
11 Ministers of Religion 52 -1
12 Accountants 50 -1
13 Bank managers 35 0
14 Lawyers 32 -1
15 Public opinion pollsters 31 0
16 Talk-back radio announcers 19 2
17 Union leaders 19 2
18 Directors of public companies 18 -5
19 TV reporters 17 -2
20 Business executives 15 -8
21 Federal MPs 15 -5
22 Stock brokers 14 -5
23 Insurance brokers 13 -2
24 State MPs 13 -6
25 Newspaper journalists 11 -1
26 Advertising people 10 -2
27 Estate agents 10 0
28 Car salesmen 3 -1