By: Annie Xu
The General Social Survey, which is a survey that is held by NORC at the University of Chicago and polled around 1015 adults, showed that trust in science was on the decline among U.S. adults. Much of the distrust in science surfaced during the COVID-19 global pandemic. There isn’t necessarily a connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and the decline in the belief in the scientific community, however, the pandemic is important to consider when coming up with a cause of this decline of trust.
According to the General Social Survey, around 39% of U.S. adults said that they had a "great deal of confidence" in science. This has declined from the 48% in 2018 and 2021. The General Social Survey is a poll that measures Americans' opinions on various topics since 1972.
Of the remaining 61% of U.S. adults that didn't have confidence in the scientific community, around 79% of those adults had “some confidence.” The remaining 21% of those adults had "hardly any" confidence in science. This data comes from the analysis of the survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The general trend moved minimally. However, when you start to group similar people together, you can start to see tendencies. Republicans showed low trust in science during the pandemic, a theme that seemed to have stuck around even after the pandemic, Jennifer Benz said. Benz is the NORC Center’s deputy director.
The Democrats and the Republicans seemed to trust science on different levels during the pandemic. Democrats tended to trust science more, while Republicans seemed to believe less in science. While after the pandemic the Democrat's trust in science fell back down to the pre-pandemic state, the Republicans’ trust in science continued to fall. They dropped from 45% in 2018 to 22% in 2022.
Confidence in medicine has also been shaken for Republicans after the pandemic. In 2018, both parties had similar trust in medicine. However, after the pandemic, the Democrats’ stayed at around the same level of trust, while the Republicans’ trust had dipped to around 26%.
The divide of opinions may seem harmless, but experts have said there is reason for concern. Benz said, “you can definitely see the impact here of people taking cues from their political leaders.” For many believers in science, the dip in trust was “disappointing but not surprising.”
The distrust doesn’t stop at science. In the 2022 survey, the trust of the Supreme Court, the trust in education, the press and major companies have also fallen. It seems to be a widespread problem that, if not fixed, could cause issues in the future.
Sudip Parikh is the CEO of the American ASSN. He thinks that rebuilding trust in science is incredibly important. Including every political party. “Science must be bipartisan,” Parikh said. “The causes of Alzheimer’s are the same whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat. The Fusion that does on in the sun is the same whether you live in Topeka or you live in San Francisco.”