Each year, the Gallup News Service measures the images of various business and industry sectors based on a simple question that asks Americans to rate each of the 25 sectors as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative. Take a guess which industry improved the most from last year's poll.

Yes, it was accounting. It had a net rating of 0 percent last year. That means as many people surveyed gave accounting a negative rating as those that gave it a positive one. This year accounting is +31 percent. In the 2001 survey, accounting was even higher at 39 percent.

At www.aicpa.org, in their report on the improvement of accountants in the Gallup survey, you will find a statement from AICPA: "We are not surprised, however, by the Gallup results because our research shows that there is a high degree of confidence in the individual CPA, one whom people know and work with personally."

I too am happy that confidence in accountants is coming back and I agree that clients have tremendous confidence in their individual CPAs. But that 31 percent difference is still alarming. It points out two things:

The profession can easily take another bad hit. For example, if an accounting firm gets caught in negative publicity because of its advice on tax shelters. It also means to me that the AICPA and other organizations representing accountants will have to regularly spend a lot of money on image enhancement campaigns, and be prepared to spend an inordinate amount if another Enron-type crisis involving an accounting firm occurs.

No, I am not quite jumping for joy yet because of the +31 percent rating. But to tell you the truth, I did smile a little and breathed a slight sigh of relief.

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