A majority of U.S. adults have a positive opinion of dietitians, and about half or more trust dietitians to perform their jobs with competence, to show concern for public interests and to provide fair and accurate nutrition information, according to a new Pew Research Center report. Americans tend to be more skeptical that dietitians are routinely open about potential conflicts of interest or are accountable for mistakes or misconduct.
Trust and mistrust
Six-in-ten Americans say dietitians care about their patients’ best interests, and just over half (54%) say dietitians do a good job providing recommendations about healthy eating all or most of the time. Some 47% say they regularly provide fair and accurate information.
But fewer believe dietitians are usually transparent about potential conflicts of interest (19%), take responsibility for their mistakes (18%) or would face serious consequences for misconduct (13%).
Other notable findings
- People who are more familiar with the work of dietitians have more positive and trusting views of them. For instance, those who know a lot about dietitians are more likely than those who know nothing to say dietitians care about their patients’ best interests all or most of the time (77% vs. 37%, respectively).
- Adults ages 50 and older are more trusting of dietitians than younger adults. For example, more older adults (67%) than younger ones (54%) believe dietitians care about the best interests of their patients all or most of the time. And 59% of adults ages 50 and older say dietitians do a good job providing recommendations about healthy eating, compared with 49% of adults ages 18 to 49.
- Hispanics and black adults are more likely than whites to consider professional misconduct among dietitians to be at least a moderately big problem; 46% of Hispanics and 30% of blacks believe professional misconduct is at least a moderately big problem among dietitians, compared with 16% of whites.
- Public trust in dietitians is higher than that for several other types of practitioner and research scientists. Americans have more trusting views of dietitians than nutrition researchers.
About the survey
The nationally representative survey from Pew Research Center was conducted among U.S. adults ages 18 and older. About half of the survey respondents (N=2,238) were asked about dietitians; these responses have a margin of sampling error of +/- 2.7 percentage points. Before answering questions about this group, respondents were given the following brief description: “Dietitians advise people on what to eat using their training in nutrition in order to promote health and manage disease.”[/callout]