Doctors become the world’s most trusted profession

A new Ipsos poll reveals that in 2021 doctors are considered the world’s most trustworthy profession.

The author(s)
  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs, UK
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The Ipsos' Global Trustworthiness Index has reported the level of trust afforded to many types of professionals since 2018, providing comparisons between the pre-pandemic world and where we are today. Across 28 markets around the world, a Global Country Average of 64% rate doctors as trustworthy, followed by scientists at 61% and teachers on 55%. On foot of the trust table, only 10% on average believe politicians are trustworthy, 14% say the same about government ministers, and 15% advertising executives.

While many professions’ positions have barely shifted over the last few years, one notable impact during the pandemic has been a boost to the standing of doctors, moving them above scientists who were the top profession in previous waves. On average, almost two-thirds of those in 22 countries which have been studied over the three waves rate them as trustworthy (64%), an increase of seven percentage points since 2019 and nine points ahead of their score in September 2018. By contrast, the proportion saying the same about scientists has stayed at about six in ten across all three years (61% in 2021).

Great Britain leads the world in trusting doctors with 72 per cent rating them as trustworthy, a proportion which has risen slightly since 2018 (67%). Doctors are similarly highly trusted by Dutch people (71%) and Canadians (70%).

Yet the biggest changes in trust in doctors over the past few years are seen elsewhere:

  • In Hungary and Chile, the proportion rating doctors as trustworthy has risen by 19 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. Over the same period there have also been big increases in Saudi Arabia (+17ppt), Poland (+12ppt), Brazil and Russia (both +10ppt).
  • However, there are some countries which remain less likely to see doctors as trustworthy. South Koreans are the least trusting on just 38%, but this is a ten-percentage point rise since 2018. The Japanese are the second-least likely to find doctors trustworthy on 52%, but there has been a 13 percentage-point increase on this score compared with the 2019 pre-pandemic survey wave. Despite these scores still being low by global standards, it should be noted that this is due to many giving a mid-score, rather than considering doctors to be untrustworthy.
  • Mexico is the only country to register a fall in the trustworthiness of doctors between 2019 and 2021, with trust falling from 71% to 66%

Many other professions remain at similar levels to those recorded in pre-pandemic waves, including politicians, who have been bottom of the list in all three years. This year just ten per cent on average rate politicians as being trustworthy.

Scientists remain seen as trustworthy by six in ten of the global sample (61%) and their ratings have stayed the same in many markets over the past two years. The largest increases in trust in scientists since 2019 have been recorded in Saudi Arabia (+17ppt), Hungary (+13ppt), Brazil (+9ppt) and Canada +8ppt), while the biggest drops have been in Argentina (-11ppt) and Mexico (-8ppt).

Teachers remain the third-most trustworthy profession for the third wave in a row, with 55% rating them as trusted. As with scientists, in many countries trust scores for teachers have moved little through the pandemic, but there has been a sixteen percentage-point increase in trust for teachers in Saudi Arabia between 2019 and 2021, as well as nine point rises in Hungary and Japan. Over the same period perceptions of trustworthiness have improved in Malaysia (+8ppt), Italy and South Africa (+6ppt), while they have fall in the US (-6ppt) and Argentina (-5ppt).

Globally, three professions stand out as the least likely to be considered trustworthy: government ministers, advertising executives and politicians. This year the Global Country Average has 14% scoring government ministers and 15% advertising executives one or two out of five for trustworthiness and just 10% doing the same for politicians. While these scores are similar to previous years, the level of distrust in these professions has fallen somewhat. Between 2019 and 2021 the proportion who see politicians as untrustworthy across 22 countries has fallen four points from 66% to 62%, while distrust of government ministers has dropped by five percentage points (from 58% to 53%). Advertising executives have also seen a shift; in 2019 nearly half considered them untrustworthy (45%) but now that figure stands at four in ten (39%).

These are the findings of an Ipsos online survey conducted between 23 April and 7 May 2021.
The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world, via the Ipsos Online Panel system in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States. The headline index results for this year are based on the full 28-country sample while trend results looking back to previous waves of the survey focus only on the 22 markets which have featured in all three waves of the survey.
The author(s)
  • Michael Clemence Public Affairs, UK