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Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2021: In a year dominated by COVID-19 - health professionals including Nurses, Doctors and Pharmacists are the most highly regarded; but almost all professions down from pre-pandemic

Source: These are the main findings of a Roy Morgan online survey conducted from April 13-22, 2021, with 1,267 Australian men and women aged 14 and over.
During a year that has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, health professionals have again been rated as Australia’s most highly regarded professions, but there were declines for almost all professions compared to four years ago.

Of all 30 professions surveyed in 2021, only one profession, Union Leaders, increased their rating compared to four years ago while 29 professions have a lower image now than in 2017 pre-pandemic.

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 we are 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% Australians (down 6% 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% (down 7% since 2017), Pharmacists on 76% (down 8%) and Dentists on 71% (down 8%). Only School Teachers on 74% (down 7%) prevent a clean sweep at the top for health-related professionals.

Image of Professions 2021: % of Australians aged 14+ rating the profession as 'very high' or 'high' for ethics and honesty

Source: These are the main findings of a Roy Morgan online survey conducted from April 13-22, 2021, with 1,267 Australian men and women aged 14 and over.

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)?

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says most professions have suffered from a loss of trust over the last few years although the COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to shake the top three professions for ethics and honesty – Nurses, Doctors and Pharmacists:

“Roy Morgan’s Image of Professions survey for 2021 shows 88% 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% and Pharmacists on 76% 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% of Australians – down 25% points from 2017.

“Notably, the lowest rating of any mainland State is Victoria at only 49%. 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 2% to 19%.  However, despite the improvement Union Leaders still rate amongst the bottom half of professions just behind Bank Managers (20%), Lawyers (26%) and Public Servants (27%).

“The real stragglers are a familiar bunch with Insurance Brokers (7%), Real Estate Agents (5%), Advertising People (4%) and Car Salesmen (3%) all filling the bottom four positions for the fourth straight survey.”

These are the main findings of a Roy Morgan online survey conducted from April 13-22, 2021, with 1,267 Australian men and women aged 14 and over.

Nurses continue their dominance but Doctors, Pharmacists and Dentists all rated very highly

Nurses have been rated ‘very high’ or ‘high’ by 88% of Australians in 2021, down 6% from 2017. The slide in the rating of Nurses this year has been felt across the board with declines for most professions including all four medical professions.

The decline brings Nurses back to the rating they held at the turn of the century in the year 2000 (88%) but despite the decline Nurses have been the most trusted profession in every year they’ve been included in the survey since 1994.

For the sixth survey in a row Doctors have finished second to their colleagues with 82% of Australians rating Doctors ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty. However, a drop of 7% on 2017 gave Doctors their lowest rating for over a decade since 2010 (79%).

Pharmacists were again the third most highly rated profession in 2021 with a rating of 76% representing a decline of 8% and the lowest rating for Pharmacists since Australia’s last recession in 1991 (76%).

In fourth position amongst the health professions were again Dentists rated ‘very high’ or ‘high’ by 71% of Australians, a drop of 8% on 2017 and equal with their rating in 2015 (71%). It was more than 30 years ago in 1989 when Dentists were last rated above any other health profession: Dentists 65% cf. Doctors 62% (1989 result).

Health professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)

Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

School Teachers preferred to University Lecturers for 38th straight survey

School Teachers have again topped University Lecturers for their ethics and honesty – a feat they have accomplished in every Image of Professions survey since first being conducted over 40 years ago in 1976.

A substantial majority of 74% of Australians rated School Teachers ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty – a drop of 7% from 2017 and the lowest rating for the professions since 2014 (72%).

In contrast 53% of Australians rated University Lecturers ‘very high’ or ‘high’, down a substantial 13% from 2017. The gap of 21% between the two professions is the largest ever gap between the two professions, beating the previous record gap of 18% points in 1996: School Teachers 68% cf. University Lecturers 50%.

Education professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)

Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

Engineers rated far ahead of Business Executives and Real Estate Agents

Engineers have again been rated highly for their ‘ethics and honesty’ at 68% in 2021, though this is down 12% from 2017 it is enough to be rated as the sixth highest profession overall and far ahead of other professions in business-related fields.

Other professions in business-related fields tend to be rated in the bottom third of professions with Directors of Public Companies on 14% (down 11%), Business Executives on 8% (down 10%) and Real Estate Agents on 5% (down 2%) all hitting new record lows for ‘ethics and honesty’ in 2021.

Only 3% of Australians rate Car Salesmen highly for their ‘ethics and honesty’ in 2021, a drop of 1% on 2017. Car Salesmen have been the lowest rated profession in every year the survey has been conducted since 1976.

Business-related professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)

Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

The image of Police plunges during COVID-19 – hitting the lowest for over forty years since 1979

The image of Police has plunged by more than any other profession over the last few years, with a bare majority of 51% of Australians now rating Police ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty. The rating for Police is down 25% from four years ago and means Police have their lowest rating for over forty years since 1979 when only 48% rated the ‘boys in blue’ highly for ‘ethics and honesty’.

For the first time since 2013 both High Court Judges on 66% (down 8%) and State Supreme Court Judges on 63% (down 8%) are both rated more highly than Police - despite both being at their lowest ratings for at least a decade.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is Lawyers who bring up the rear of the professions in the legal field with 26% of Australians rating Lawyers as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty – down 9% points from 2017 and the lowest rating for Lawyers for over twenty years since 1998.

Judicial-related professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)

Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

Accountants and Bank Managers experience big falls for ‘ethics and honesty’ in 2021

Despite a substantial fall in their rating for ethics and honesty Accountants have once again retained their lead as the most admired financial-related profession with 38% (down 12% since 2017) of Australians rating Accountants ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty. Accountants have now been the preferred financial-related profession for 30 years since 1991.

Along with many other professions Bank Managers have also experienced a decline in their rating for ethics and honesty, down 13% to 20% - a new record low for this profession.

Until this year the ethics and honesty of Financial Planners has been remarkably consistent since being introduced to the survey for the first time in 2010. However, this year, the broader trends took their rating for ethics and honesty down to 17%, a drop of 8% since 2017.

Two familiar professions continue to be on the nose with Australians – only 9% of Australians (down 2%) now rate Stockbrokers ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty and even fewer, just 7%, rate Insurance Brokers ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty, down 3% from four years ago. Both ratings were new record lows for both Stockbrokers and Insurance Brokers.

Finance professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)

Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

Union Leaders only profession to improve their rating for ethics and honesty in 2021

Union Leaders have improved their standing for ethics and honesty for the second straight survey in 2021 with 19% of Australians now rating the profession ‘very high’ or ‘high’, an improvement of 2% on 2017.

Although views on Public Servants ethics and honesty fell this year those in the profession are rated clearly higher than their Parliamentary bosses, or the improving Union Leaders, with 27% of Australians rating the profession ‘very high’ or ‘high’ – down 10% on 2017.

Both Federal MPs and their State MP colleagues fell sharply in 2021 – both professions more than halved, down 9% to 7%, and are now rated amongst the lowest of all professions.

The last time Federal MPs were rated this lowly John Howard was Prime Minister and set for his second election victory in 1998 while the last time State MPs were rated this lowly Jeff Kennett was the Premier of Victoria, Bob Carr was the Premier of NSW and Rob Borbidge was the Premier of Queensland also in 1998.

Public sector professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)

Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

Newspaper journalists marginally in front of public opinion pollsters amongst media professions

Newspaper Journalists are now rated more highly for ethics and honesty than Public Opinion Pollsters for the first time in 2021. Now 15% of Australians (down 5% since 2017) rate Newspaper Journalists ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty compared to 11% (down 23%) for Public Opinion Pollsters.

The perception of Public Opinion Pollsters in Australia suffered a blow in the aftermath of the 2019 Federal Election when many had predicted an ALP victory. However, the L-NP surprised many by winning a narrow election with a 1 seat majority on the floor of Parliament.

Roy Morgan consistently predicted a close Federal Election in 2019 and we even said so in our pre-election presentation in early May 2019 – ‘State of the Nation: Election 2019 is a ‘photo finish’.

Level with Public Opinion Pollsters are TV Reporters with 11% of Australians rating them ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty – down 6% on four years ago. Just behind are Talk-back Radio Announcers with 10% of Australians rating their ethics and honesty as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ – a new record low.

However, there was a clear straggler amongst the media professions with only 4% of Australians (down 1% from 2017) rating Advertising People either ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty.

Media professions rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)


Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

Ministers of Religion continue steady decline to new record low

When first introduced in 1996 Ministers of Religion were rated ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ‘ethics and honesty’ by 59% of respondents – enough for sixth place overall.

In 2021 Ministers of Religion have hit a new record low rating of only 30% for ethics and honesty, down 4% from four years ago. The considerable scandals experienced this century have clearly had a significant impact on the standing of the profession in the wider community and religious observance has also been steadily declining for years.

The latest Roy Morgan figures on religious observance show that just 53.4% of Australians said they belonged to a religion in 2020 – down almost 20% of people since 2003 when 73.2% of respondents said they belonged to a religion.

Ministers of Religion rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ethics and honesty (% of Australians)


Source: Roy Morgan Image of Professions surveys of Australians 14+ between 1976 – 2021.

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Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate

40%-60%

25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%

1,000

±3.0

±2.7

±1.9

±1.3

5,000

±1.4

±1.2

±0.8

±0.6

7,500

±1.1

±1.0

±0.7

±0.5

10,000

±1.0

±0.9

±0.6

±0.4

20,000

±0.7

±0.6

±0.4

±0.3

50,000

±0.4

±0.4

±0.3

±0.2