In Brief: Ethics Ratings Fall for Most Professions in Gallup Poll; the Latest Edelman Trust Barometer

March 2024
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Americans consider many professions less ethical and honest today than in recent years, a new Gallup poll finds. Members of Congress, senators, car salespeople and advertising practitioners are considered the least ethical, with single-digit ratings.

Ethics ratings for five professions hit new lows this year, including members of Congress (6%), senators (8%), journalists (19%), clergy (32%) and pharmacists (55%). Ratings for business executives (12%), bankers (19%) and college teachers (42%) tie previous lows. The last time ratings for bankers and business executives were this low was in 2009, after the Great Recession. College teachers haven’t been considered this unethical since 1977.

Almost all of the 23 professions measured are viewed less positively today than a year ago or four years ago. Nurses, at 78%, top the list for honesty and ethics, compared to 85% in 2019. Veterinarians are second, at 65%. Four other occupations have majority positive ratings, even as they’ve fallen: engineers (60%), dentists (59%), medical doctors (56%) and pharmacists (55%).

Are Scientific and Technological Innovations Being Managed Well?

Nearly twice as many people feel that rapid technological innovations are being poorly managed as those who believe such sweeping changes are being well managed, Edelman’s 2024 Trust Barometer finds.

The nearly two-to-one margin persists across age groups, income levels and gender, the study says. A majority of U.S. respondents (67%) believe science has become politicized, causing wider polarization. Many respondents believe science is losing its independence to government, funding sources and politics.

“More than two-thirds of our respondents who say innovation is poorly managed believe society is changing too quickly and not in ways that benefit” people like themselves, said Richard Edelman, CEO.

Approximately 80% of respondents say it’s important for their own company’s CEO to speak publicly about automation’s impact on jobs, the skills that will be valuable in the future and the ethical use of technology. Respondents who feel that innovation is being poorly managed are more likely to believe the system favors the rich, the study finds.

Social Media Use Widespread Among U.S. Adults, Survey Finds

American adults use a variety of social media sites and apps, especially YouTube and Facebook, Pew Research Center finds

Among social media platforms asked about in a September 2023 survey, YouTube was the most widely used, with 83% of respondents saying they’ve ever used the video-based site.

A majority of American adults surveyed (68%) say they’ve used Facebook, while just under half (47%) use Instagram. Among U.S. adults, 27%–35% say they use Pinterest, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Snapchat. A third (33%) use TikTok, up from 21% in a 2021 survey. About 20% of respondents use X, formerly known as Twitter.

Adults under 30 are far more likely to use Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, the research finds. YouTube and Facebook are the only two social media sites that majorities of all age groups use. Americans ages 30–49 report using LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Facebook at higher rates. Some 74% of adults under 30 use at least five of the social media sites studied.

For Baby-Clothing Company, Maternity Leave Decision Raises TikTok Storm

The CEO of a small baby-clothing company issued two public apologies in January for denying a mother’s request to work from home while her adopted baby was in neonatal intensive care. As Axios reported, the business disaster for woman-owned Kyte Baby spread on TikTok, becoming 2024’s first communications-related crisis to go viral for a company.

The employee, Marissa Hughes, had worked in marketing at Texas-based Kyte Baby for less than a year when she adopted the prematurely born baby boy. The company said it offered her two weeks’ maternity leave if she would commit to working at least another six months upon her return. Given her son’s situation, Hughes said she couldn’t commit to working in-person after the maternity leave ended. She proposed a remote option but was denied.

In her first video apology on TikTok, Kyte Baby CEO Ying Liu said refusing Hughes’ request had been “a terrible decision” and “insensitive, selfish.” After TikTok users ridiculed the first video, Liu posted a second apology, saying the first message “wasn’t sincere.”

“I am forever amazed at the tendency of corporate America to want to strip the humanity out of their communications, whether it be an apology or any other public statement,” crisis counselor James Haggerty told CNN.

Most U.S. Adults Can Spot Fake Political Headlines, Research Suggests

About 75% of U.S. adults can tell real political news headlines from fake ones, a new study finds. As NiemanLab reports, researchers at MIT and Columbia University quizzed nearly 8,000 participants from June 2019 to March 2022.

Younger, less-educated participants were less likely to pick true headlines, compared to older participants with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

One quiz offered three real headlines and three fabricated headlines that journalists had written for the study. In another, participants were shown three real headlines and three fake headlines that had circulated online, provided by the fact-checking site Snopes. 

According to study co-author Charles Angelucci, an assistant professor of applied economics at MIT, people who use social media tend to be less informed than the general population. Those who are politically engaged and likely to vote are more likely to choose the real headline, the research found.

Return to Current Issue Employee Engagement | March 2024
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