Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Breaking Down the Gallup "Ethical" Question

A Gallup Poll out this week finds only 24 percent of Americans give "high" or "very high" marks to journalists on ethics.  Oh my God!  Let the journalistic hand-wringing begin!

Not so fast, my friend.

First, below is the entire list of occupational fields and their scores.  You may have to click on it to get it big enough to view well, or check out the Poynter story about the poll here.  I don't want to bury my own lede, but lemme say there's more to the story than this one 2012 poll.  Continue below the graphic.

First, the good news.  Journalists outscore car salesmen.  The bad news?  Somehow, bankers score higher.  Bankers?  Really?  Where have these people been in the last few years? The original Gallup report provides some nice graphical display of trend data for many of the occupations above -- but not journalists.  I'm here to help.

All the headlines are about the 24 percent, how far down journalism fares.  But that matters only if journalists have dropped significantly in the last few years compared to other major occupations.

The real news?  They haven't dropped.  Not really.

In 1997, when Gallup first asked the question, only 23 percent gave journalists a "very high" or "high" ethical rating.  It's high was in 2001 (a 9/11 effect, inching up to 29 percent), it's low was 2000 (a post-election effect, incying down to 21 percent).

In other words, there's not a hell of a lot of change.  Check out the quick graph I made below, which shows you how little has actually changed.  It shows journalists and bankers (some years are blank as they didn't ask the question of journalists).  They more or less track one another, which suggests all the journalistic hand-wringing -- it's best left unwrung.

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