The Least-Trusted Jobs in America: Congress Members and Car Salespeople

Ah, December, time for my favorite Gallup survey of the year: Ranking the most- and least-honest professions. Here they are:

bankers1.gif

There is no such thing as a Universal Theme of Vocational Trust, but there is something at play here, which you might call The Twilight of (Some) Elites. To over-generalize: Un-elected positions of authority dominate the top of the list, especially in medicine. Elected officials and salespeople dominate the second half.

There are a couple ways to read this. First, we trust people we have no choice but to trust. Nurses and doctors and engineers and professors and priests and psychologists aren't merely professionals, they're experts in fields where expertise comes at a high price. Most of those jobs require significant post-secondary education in something the average person doesn't know much about. We trust their honesty partly because we're rarely in a position to prove them wrong.

On the other hand, in professions where consumers or patients are more likely to have strong opinions -- or feel a real sense of agency -- it seems we're more likely to distrust supposed experts. We choose what cars to buy, what ads to look at, what politicians to elect, what stocks to buy, what insurance policy to purchase ... and choosing between competing options forces us to distrust or disparage the choice we don't make. In particular, we don't trust people trying to sell us something because we know that their objective isn't to provide a service, but to make a sale. More broadly, we don't trust people whose job is to compete with other people for our attention and money. Not sure if that says more about us or them.

>

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Business

Just In