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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Go ahead, trust me

My favorite headline so far this week -- "The least-trusted jobs in America: Congress members and car salespeople." People from the medical profession take the top three spots -- nurses, pharmacists and doctors. Advertising practitioners and stockbrokers join the politicians and salespeople at the bottom:

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.

I see journalists in the middle of the pack, which is a little higher than we have scored in the past. Only 24 percent of those responding said we rate high or very high for honesty and ethical standards. Interesting that nurses rate higher than doctors, by the way. Wonder why.