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Trust in science, scientists has increased globally



By Sabrina Imbler

© The New York Times Co.

As the pandemic put a spotlight on scientific research, people around the world gained trust in science and scientists, according to a survey released Monday.

Results from the public opinion poll, in a report published by the Wellcome Trust, a foundation focused on health research in London, showed that about 80% of people from 113 countries said they trusted science either “a lot” or “some.” About threefourths of the 119,000 surveyed said they trusted scientists, either “a lot” or “some.”

Fatima Tokhmafshan, a geneticist who was not involved with the poll, suggested the interdisciplinary response to the pandemic among scientists helped people to understand the connections between science and their own well-being.

“The general public may not know scientists in real life, but most people know a doctor or a nurse,” she said. “Now everyone has at least heard of a scientist or read something by a scientist.”

Conducted by Gallup, the poll interviewed people from August 2020 to February 2021, while vaccine trials were underway and largely before COVID-19 vaccines were available in many countries.

Worldwide, trust levels rose most substantially among people who said they knew “some,” “not much” or “nothing at all” about science since the poll was last conducted in 2018. This suggests that people without much experience with science may have gained awareness of its importance during the pandemic, according to the study’s authors.

The percentage of people who said they had “a lot” of trust in science increased by at least 10 points in East Asia (especially China), Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

Within the United States, the survey found that 54% of Americans said they had “a lot” of trust in scientists, an increase of 9 percentage points from the 2018 poll. The most recent U.S. survey data was collected from August 2020 to October 2020, as confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 people rose 60%.

A more recent Gallup poll conducted in July found confidence in science has increasingly diverged across partisan lines. Since the last poll was taken in 1975, Republican confidence in science fell by 27 points, and Democratic confidence increased by 12 points.



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