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June 1999

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Opinion research shows high level of public respect and trust for teachers.


By Julie Mason

School teachers are among the country’s most trusted and respected professionals, according to the Angus Reid Group and Pollara, independent public opinion organizations. Both carried out nation-wide polls to measure how Canadians feel about selected professions. In both polls, school teachers were in the top five professions.

In the 1998 Pollara poll, school teachers came fourth on the public trust index. Fifty per cent of respondents said they trusted school teachers a lot, while 40 per cent said they trusted them a little. Only eight per cent distrusted school teachers. Topping the list were nurses (72 per cent), pharmacists (65 per cent) and doctors (52 per cent).

Pollara chairman Michael Marzolini points out that "professions which are perceived to be altruistic are trusted more than those which involve money changing hands." Canadians are showing "they trust school teachers with education, and they trust them with their kids," Marzolini says.

A 1998 Angus Reid Group poll asked respondents about the level of respect they had for different selected professions. School teachers again ranked fourth, after small entrepreneurs, doctors and police officers. Fifty-four per cent said they respected teachers a great deal, with another 36 per cent indicated a fair amount of respect. Respect for teachers has risen nine points nationally from 45 to 54 per cent since an earlier Angus Reid poll carried out in 1993. John Wright, senior vice-president of the Angus Reid Group, explains, "People respect teachers because they see education as the feeding of the mind."

Both Marzolini and Wright agree that personal experiences with teachers help to keep trust and respect high. "It’s something we’ve all been through," says Marzolini. Wright feels that professions like teaching "are closest to home and family" and will continue to remain very important to Canadians.

In the United States, teachers also enjoy high ratings from the public. A 1998 Harris Poll asked about the prestige of various professions, and school teachers ranked third after doctors and scientists.

At the bottom of the 1998 Pollara public trust list were arms dealers (five per cent), Members of Parliament (four per cent), car dealers (three per cent), people who run tobacco companies (three per cent) and in last place, telemarketers (two per cent).

The Angus Reid Group results showed that the professions with the lowest level of public respect were journalists (15 per cent), federal government employees (13 per cent), labour leaders (10 per cent) and politicians (six per cent).

The 1998 Pollara poll was based on a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians carried out in May 1998, and results are accurate to within plus or minus 2.9 per cent, nineteen times out of twenty. The Angus Reid Group surveyed 1,500 Canadians in November 1998, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.