US Public Trust In Medical Scientists Has Increased But The Change Is Along Party Lines

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A new report from the Pew Research Center suggests that trust in medical scientists has increased among the US public over the last year. However, this rise is only seen among people who identify as Democrats, with Republicans remaining unchanged since January 2019.

The report is based on two national surveys of 10,139 adults given three weeks ago with a focus on the public's general trust in science among the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey shows trust in both medical and other scientists has increased continuously since 2016. In 2020, 43 percent of US adults say they have a great deal of confidence in medical scientists, with 46 percent saying they have a fair amount.

When it comes to the pandemic and policies by both state and federal governments, there are many points agreed upon by Americans, although different opinions continue to be seen along party lines. Almost six-in-ten Americans agree that social distancing measures are helping to slow down the spread of Covid-19, with Republicans being less likely to say this than Democrats (49 versus 69 percent).

The US has more than 1,550,000 cases of Covid-19 so far, the largest in the world. When asked if the share of people with the virus is higher, the same, or lower in the US than in other nations, about 49 percent of those sampled said it was higher and 31 percent said about the same. Among the Democrats, 66 percent said higher, although this changed with education with over seven-in-ten Democrats with postgraduate degrees saying as much. For Republicans, the percentage was about 30 and it wasn’t affected by education levels. Partisan differences were also seen in how people perceive the influence of science on policy.

“Most people believe that evidence from public health experts is influencing government policies related to the coronavirus at least a fair amount, but more think such evidence has a great deal of influence on their state’s policies (43 percent) than on federal policy (26 percent),” the report states.

“As with views on government handling of the coronavirus, partisans see the intersection of public health and policy through a different lens. For example, about twice as many Republicans (38 percent) as Democrats (17 percent) think federal policies to control the spread of the coronavirus have been influenced a great deal by evidence from public health experts.”

Democrats remain more supportive than Republicans when it comes to scientists taking an active role in science-related policies, but in general more than half of the public (55 percent) is supportive, an increase from 44 percent in 2019.

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