The rating fell to 47 percent in Gallup's most recent poll, marking the first time this rating fell below 50 percent since Gallup first began asking about the clergy in 1977, the Princeton, N.J., polling agency said.
The survey on honesty and ethical standards of members of various professions found Americans consider nurses, pharmacists and grade school teachers as having the highest ethical standards, while lobbyists, congressional members and car salespeople were at the bottom.
Since 2005, more than 80 percent of Americans have rated nurses as having "high" or "very high" honesty and ethical standards, Gallup said. Nurses led the list since 1999, the first year Gallup asked about them -- except in 2001, when Gallup included firefighters on a one-time basis, given their role in rescue efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.
Lobbyists were last, with 6 percent of Americans rating them as "high" or "very high," Gallup said.
Gallup said when views of certain professions change, it usually is because of a surrounding scandal. The Catholic priest abuse stories from the early 2000s helped lead to a sharp drop in Americans' ratings of clergy, a fall that the profession has yet to fully recover.
Results are based on nationwide telephone interviews of 1,031 adults conducted Dec. 5-8. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.