Gallup Poll: Business Executives Lack Honesty and Integrity

“Business Executives” Rank Low in Annual Honesty and Ethics Poll

While nurses topped the list for the seventh consecutive year, business executives earned relatively poor grades in the latest installment of the annual integrity poll from Gallup.

The poll, which surveyed just over 1,000 US adults earlier this month, asked respondents how they would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in one of twenty-one different professions. Lobbyists were dead last for the second consecutive year, followed closely by telemarketers and car salesmen. To see the entire list, follow this link.

The list of professions included in the Gallup poll reads somewhat like the results one might expect to see when a classroom of first graders are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Adding princess, fireman, and army soldier would probably round out the possibilities for any group of six-year olds.

Funny thing about Gallup’s choice of professions; some, like “high school teachers,” are quite specific; while others, like “business executives,” are incredibly vague.

While none of the editors would argue against the need for more honesty and higher ethics in business, we are a little confused by Gallup’s use of the seemingly all-inclusive term “business executives.”

Liars, Damn Liars, and Pollsters

Just who are these “business executives” anyway? Are they Dick Fuld and the late Kenneth Lay? Are they P. Diddy and Donald Trump? Are they the millions of business owners, CEOs, COOs, presidents, vice presidents and other executives whose jobs are so different from one another that they hardly can be classified in fifty categories, let alone a single one?

We suspect that most of the 1,010 US adults who lack caller ID (otherwise, why would they answer a call from a pollster?) pictured some sinister, overweight, overpaid, cigar-chomping CEO of a bankrupt company when they were asked their opinion of business executives. Of course business executives ranked low.

While one can easily group extremely similar positions together to identify such professions as nurses, car salesmen, policemen, funeral directors, pharmacists, telemarketers, and real estate agents; we find ourselves struggling to identify what Gallup means by the nebulous group “business executives.”

It’s all in the Headlines

In 2001 (and only in 2001) this particular Gallup poll included the category “firefighters.” Not surprisingly, firefighters overwhelmingly topped all other professions that year (the poll was taken about two months after 9/11). This begs the question: Did the Gallup organization exploit the tragedy of 9/11 and the sudden popularity of firefighters for the sake of a more compelling headline?

Only Gallup knows for sure. Overall, we think this is a quaint little poll of very little value. Many of the twenty-one professions appear to be included merely to provide fodder for talk radio hosts and bloggers. Why else would Gallup include funeral directors and not coroners; lawyers and not judges; telemarketers and not convenience store clerks; or bankers and not bakers? Why only twenty-one professions?

Perhaps if Gallup were interested in delivering public opinions worthy of action, they might change their annual integrity poll to include hundreds of professions instead of just twenty-one. This should add a level of validity the current poll does not enjoy.

May we also suggest Gallup find suitable replacements for the ill-defined “business executives?” Perhaps the categories “Fortune 500 CEOs,” “small business owners,” “cartoon villains,” “mid-level managers,” “board members,” “white-collar criminals,” and “junior executives” would cover all possibilities.

Oh Yeah, Let’s Add One More Profession…

Lest we forget, we think it might be appropriate for Gallup to add one more profession to next year’s annual integrity poll: pollsters. Of course, we suspect they wouldn’t be happy with the results.