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Congress Gets Low Ethics Rating as 'Fiscal Cliff' Looms

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans rate only car salespeople below Congress in terms of honesty and ethics.

Just one in 10 Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of lawmakers as high or very high, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.  
People ranked nurses at the top of the 22 professions polled, with more than eight in 10 rating them as highly honest and ethical.  Rounding out the top five are pharmacists, medical doctors, engineers and dentists.

Car salespeople rank lowest, joining members of Congress, advertising practitioners, stockbrokers and HMO managers in the bottom five.  Journalists fell in the middle, just below bankers and right above business executives.

While many have never perceived Congress as very honest or ethical, the numbers in this latest poll are especially low.  That may be due in part to the looming "fiscal cliff," which could strike a blow to the fragile economy and send taxes up if Congress fails to act before the Jan. 1 deadline.

The highpoint for lawmakers in the last 15 years was just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in November 2001, according to the poll.  Last year's 7 percent honesty rating for members of Congress was the lowest on record.

While the poll tested only perceived honesty and ethical standards, the results line up with other polls that show the public generally holds politicians in low esteem.  Previous Gallup polls show that people hold generally negative views of the federal government and the job Congress is doing.

The poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted with 1,015 randomly selected adults from Nov. 26-29.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio