By various measures, Americans reported that they trusted scientists more than they trusted many other institutions and professions, including journalists, judges and Congress. That trust can affect how people interpret scientific information related to human health or government policies.
In the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS), about 40 percent of respondents reported a great deal of confidence in the leaders of scientific institutions, a number that has changed little since surveying began in 1973. A majority expressed either a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the scientific community throughout the survey period.
“We can say without a doubt that the vast majority of Americans have confidence in the scientific community,” says Dominque Brossard, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication and the senior author of the report. “Over and over again, scientists are at the top of trustworthy professions.”
This is further supported by Harris Polls showing that, over the last two decades, roughly three-quarters of Americans surveyed said they would trust scientists to tell them the truth. This was more than they trusted most other professionals aside from doctors and teachers.
Brossard says increasing concerns among scientists over science becoming partisan are not reflected in recent GSS polls, which show fairly modest differences between Democrats’ and Republicans’ confidence in the scientific community. While Democrats reported higher confidence in scientists than Republicans did in 2018, members of both parties have reported similar, high levels of confidence over the past 45 years …
Similarly, about 40 percent of Christians expressed a great deal of confidence in scientists, in line with the general population. Members of other religions or no religion expressed higher rates of confidence, between 50 percent and 60 percent.
“Our study focused on aggregate trends, but among the few subgroups we assessed, we didn’t see sharp declines in confidence in scientists,” says Krause. “Instead, we saw long-standing gaps or new gaps emerging because one group’s confidence has been increasing relative to others.” Paper. (paywall) – Nicole M Krause, Dominique Brossard, Dietram A Scheufele, Michael A Xenos, Keith Franke. The Polls—Trends. Public Opinion Quarterly, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/poq/nfz041 More.
That’s heartening news, compared to some we’ve heard. Like: Sceptic asks, why do people who abandon religion embrace superstition? Belief in God is declining and belief in ghosts and witches is rising.
Clearly, there’s no war on science as such but when something sounds unbelievable, people tend not to believe it.
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