Nine in ten (92 per cent) people polled claim PR is primarily used to deceive the public, while an identical proportion claim that PR professionals ‘bend the truth’.
The research, carried out by Ginger Research and revealed exclusively by PRWeek, found further scepticism about the industry, with 22 per cent indicating they believe PR generates ‘fake news'.
Almost a fifth (17 per cent) claim PR propfessionals lie for a living, with 11 per cent saying they trust estate agents more than PRs.
A major concern for the industry is that 62 per cent admit to not knowing what PR actually is, and 27 per cent believe that public relations is exactly the same as marketing.
Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) claim PR professionals have glamourous, easy jobs, while one in ten believe PR people spend all their time ‘sipping fizz and going to parties’.
One in ten of those polled confess they’d love to work in PR, but only five per cent would like their kids to join the industry.
Previous studies carried out by PRWeek tell a similar tale about the industry's public image. Research in 2014 found nearly 80 per cent of people believe PR campaigns can be classed as spin, while two thirds thought it had a reputation problem.
"This research paints a very concerning picture of the public perception of PR and communications," PRCA deputy director general Matt Cartmell said.
"The reality is that PR is a modern-day success story, an overwhelmingly ethical and professional industry with a valuable role to play in the reputation of every single organisation.
"Clearly there is a lot more work to be done to communicate all of that.
Cartmell said the PRCA will be undertaking a range of activities to "convey the value of a career in PR to people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.
"I believe that with diversity comes improved awareness and more relevance," he added.
CIPR president Emma Leech told PRWeek the research raises an important issue about the reputation of PR in society.
"The simple fact is more PR professionals need to commit to professional standards. We can only improve our reputation in society by continuing to professionalise as an industry," she said. "It’s also worth noting that poor perceptions of PR are often driven by misrepresentation in the media and fictional characterisations in entertainment. But the reality is a far cry from what’s often portrayed on TV."