A new study has painted a bleak picture of Australia’s advertising and media industry when it comes to ethics and honesty, ranking it a worrying second last on a list of 30 professions.
The study by research firm Roy Morgan showed that only four per cent of people surveyed rated adlanders as “high” or “very high” for ethics and honesty.
In fact, none of the media categories featured fared particularly well. Only 15 per cent of respondents felt newspaper journalists were honest. It was 11 per cent for TV reporters and pollsters, and 10 per cent for talkback radio announcers.
Strangely, PR was noticeably absent from this year’s list.
The advertising industry was sandwiched in between real estate agents (five per cent) and the last-placed used car salesmen (three per cent).
The results should be a worrying sign for Australia’s advertising industry, given its concerted efforts in recent times to present more meaningful messages, more transparency, and deliver important initiatives around diversity and inclusion.
Nurses came out tops on the most trusted list at 88 per cent, followed by doctors at 82 per cent and pharmacists third with 76 per cent.
Roy Morgan reports all professions were down on last year’s trust numbers except for union leaders who were up on 2020’s numbers. That said, only 19 per cent of people said they trusted union bosses.
Respondents were asked: “As I say different occupations, could you please say – from what you know or have heard – which rating best describes how you, yourself, would rate or score people in various occupations for honesty and ethical standards (Very High, High, Average, Low, Very Low)?”
Check out the full list of results below:
Image of Professions 2021: Percentage of Australians aged 14-plus rating
the profession as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty
Conducting the study, Roy Morgan noted that since 2017 there have been several trends and events that have shaped public opinion on professions including the rise of ‘Fake News’ and growing distrust of social media companies; The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation, and Financial Services Industry that uncovered countless examples of wrongdoing within Australia’s banking and financial companies; scandals at large businesses such as AMP and most recently Greensill Capital, mining disasters including the destruction of indigenous art at the Juukan Gorge and the Mariana dam disaster; and the result of the 2019 Australian Federal Election came as a shock to many media professionals who had predicted a clear ALP victory.
In the last year the COVID-19 pandemic has up-ended the working lives of millions of Australians with many forced to work from home, stood down, having their work hours reduced, been made redundant and other significant impacts on their employment situations.
Despite these wider trends that have bred a degree of cynicism of those the survey asked to ‘trust’ in a whole range of industries the usual professions have held their standing at the top of the rankings with nurses ranked clearly in first place again. Now 88 per cent Australians (down six per cent from 2017) rate nurses ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ‘ethics and honesty’.
Health professionals are clustered near the top with nurses followed by doctors on 82 per cent (down seven per cent since 2017), Pharmacists on 76 per cent (down eight per cent) and dentists on 71 per cent (down eight per cent). Only school teachers on 74 per cent (down seven per cent) prevented a clean sweep at the top for health-related professionals.
Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine commented: “[The] Image of Professions survey for 2021 shows 88 per cent of Australians rating nurses ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for their ‘ethics and honesty’ – making it 24 straight surveys as the highest rated profession.
“Nurses have been front and centre around the world during the last year as we’ve dealt with the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily for local nurses Australia has dealt exceptionally well with the pandemic and we have largely avoided an out of control situation although many Victorians would fairly argue we came close during the middle of 2020.
“Once again other professions entrusted with looking after our health are close behind with doctors on 82 per cent and pharmacists on 76 per cent filling out the second and third spots overall – although all three leaders have declined from four years ago.
“The biggest loser from this year’s Image of Professions survey is the Police who have experienced a significant fall and are now rated highly for their ‘ethics and honesty’ by a bare majority of 51 per cent of Australians – down 25 per cent points from 2017.
“Notably, the lowest rating of any mainland State is Victoria at only 49 per cent. Victorians told us in detail the issues they had with the local police in mid-September 2020 during the State’s long second lockdown – with the enforcement of COVID-19 related laws and the high profile ‘Lawyer X’ scandal emerging as key issues for respondents.
“The standout performer in a tough year for everyone has been Union Leaders – the only profession to improve their standing for ‘ethics and honesty’ compared to four years ago – up by two per cent to 19 per cent. However, despite the improvement union leaders still rate amongst the bottom half of professions just behind bank managers (20 per cent), lawyers (26 per cent) and public servants (27 per cent).
“The real stragglers are a familiar bunch with insurance brokers (seven per cent), real estate agents (five per cent), advertising people (four per cent) and car salesmen (three per cent) all filling the bottom four positions for the fourth straight survey.”
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