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Declining public trust in scientists and the contribution of science to humanity in the US

This is according to a comprehensive survey published by the PEW Research Institute. The worst situation is among the voters of the Republican Party, but also among the Democrats, the majority who still show confidence in science is shrinking

Trust in science in the age of artificial intelligence. Illustration:
Trust in science in the age of artificial intelligence. Illustration:

Science used to be the standard by which the decision makers act and then decide which political side they belong to, with each side having its own solutions. In the last decade or two, since the introduction of oil majors into political contributions to the Republican Party, the party seems to be becoming radically science-denying. The reason is simple, anyone who supported measures against the climate crisis could not be elected to any position in the party because a conservative candidate with a lot of money stood in front of him.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center (November 2023) reveals a decline in public trust in scientists in the United States. The report describes a decline in the perception of the positive impact of science on society and presents factors that influence these changes, such as political affiliation and educational background. Other topics discussed include public opinion on government investment in science and the importance of the United States' dominance as the world leader in scientific achievement. The study is based on surveys conducted among adults in the United States.

The report also explores public opinion on government investments in science and the importance of the United States' position as a world leader in the field.

The report points to several reasons for the decline in public trust in scientists. One of the reasons is the politicization of science, i.e. the connection between political views and support or skepticism in science. Other factors include suspicion of academic institutions and distrust of government, which also affect the public perception of science and scientists.

The chapter dealing with the public's attitude towards scientists in the Pew Research Center's report points out several key points:

  • General trust in scientists: In general, trust in scientists and medical scientists is still higher than in most other groups and institutions surveyed. About three-quarters of Americans say they have a lot or quite a lot of trust in medical scientists (77%), the military (74%), and scientists (73%) to act in the public interest.
  • Decrease in trust: There is a decrease in the level of strong trust in scientists, from 39% in 2020 to 23%. At the same time, about a quarter of Americans (27%) now say they have little or no trust in scientists to act in the public interest, compared to 12% in April 2020​​.
  • The impact of science on society: about a third (34%) of Americans today say that the impact of science on society is equally positive and negative, and only a small portion (8%) think that science has a mainly negative impact on society.
Trust in science among the American public from 2016 to today. Source: PEW Research Center
Trust in science among the American public from 2016 to today. Source: PEW Research Center

The differences between Republicans and Democrats

There has been a distinct decline in levels of trust in scientists and medical scientists among Republicans and Republican-leaning Republicans over the past few years. Nearly four in ten Republicans (38%) now say they have little or no trust in scientists to act in the public interest, up from 14% in April 2020.

People with high trust are more likely to adapt their beliefs and actions to expert guidelines and scientific understanding. For example, those with higher trust in scientists are more likely to receive vaccines against COVID-19 and influenza, and are also more likely to believe that human activity is contributing to climate change.

Decrease in trust also among Democrats: There is a decrease in trust also among Democrats and those who lean toward Democrats. The significant share of Democrats (37%) with a great deal of trust in scientists is down from a peak of 55% in November 2020. However, compared to Republicans, a large majority of Democrats (86%) still express at least reasonable trust in scientists to act in the public interest.

In summary, the report indicates a decline in public trust in scientists in the United States, with clear gaps between different political groups. Trust in scientists is important for adapting public behavior to scientific guidelines and promoting actions based on scientific understanding.

What needs to be done to restore trust in science?

According to the report, one of the ways to restore trust in science may be through continued government investment in scientific research. The report indicates that a large majority of Americans (78%) consider government investments in scientific research to be of equal value for the benefit of society. Broad majorities of demographic and educational groups, as well as large majorities of Democrats and Republicans, see these investments as worthwhile. In addition, 52% of Americans think it is very important for the United States to be a world leader in scientific achievements.

For the full study

More of the topic in Hayadan:

10 תגובות

  1. Everyone is wrong!!
    And the land will be quiet for 70 years. this is the reason.
    In these 70 years we have forgotten what a real war is, which lasts for years and involves hundreds of millions of people. We have forgotten how much science wins wars. We have forgotten some totalitarian rulers dangerous to stability. And we multiplied. We have multiplied a lot. Instead of killing we made children. And now we breed hatred. Live for the weak and everyone who is not us. All over the world, in all languages, in all colors and in all species.
    Take 10 years and then a real war will begin, one that the populist majority wants. 5 years later unless they survive there will already be room and there will be memories and reasons why to be silent for 70 years. Until the generation forgets again.

  2. Summary:
    The problem: politicization of science.
    The way to fix it: invest more money in science.

  3. For years you cultivated a sick progressivism under the guise of a healthy liberalism. The stew is boiling and it's time to choke on it. for health

  4. I don't believe in research, due to my lack of trust in researchers and scientific studies in general.

  5. Maybe because only this solution works and the others work in the eyes? And maybe the scientists are defending themselves against the intrusion of politics that hinders the decision makers from making correct decisions based on science and not based on financial interests?

  6. This is a natural response to the politics of science. The author points to oil company lobbyists as the culprits. But in the past there were lobbyists for the tobacco companies and over time it turned out that the scientists were right so trust in science did not decrease. Right now the situation is reversed. Those who speak in the name of science change their minds about the climate models, change their minds about the temperature increase target. They oppose climate engineering and demand only one type of solution and generally behave like a political party. Scientists used to be more modest in their determinations, they were less in the headlines of the newspapers and there were always multiple opinions. It was okay that scientists once thought that the medium of light was ether and then they didn't. This was not a political issue. Today, when the scientists enter politics with a rough foot, then the public's trust must decrease.

  7. The lack of distinction between exact sciences and social sciences in the article is shocking. Most have great faith in exact sciences. The problem lies in the great biases in the social sciences and especially in the conclusions for public policy that is not based on exact science but on its mobilization for political agendas.

  8. If the conditions for admission to the best universities in the world no longer depend on excellence but on a preliminary test that determines the level of the student's contribution to the social diversity of the institution, then why am I expected to show some level of support for scientific research? What is his level? What is the level of researchers?

  9. Good morning world,,, did you wake up? A key phrase for the situation, "progress leads to progress" (Tower of Babel)

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