February 23, 2020

Americans Trust Science Up to a Point

“NOTHING’S MORE AMERICAN than a science-hero—an indomitable, big-brained hasher-out of ideas that change the world, that make the impossible possible. At least since Ben Franklin sat with the founders, and certainly since Vannevar Bush explicitly connected the US’ future to federal funding of science after World War II, the idea of sciencing the shit out of everything has been core to the American character. Like many surveys and studies before it, a new report from the Pew Research Center confirms this truth: Americans love and trust scientists. In 2019, 86 percent of Americans said they had a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in them—up 3 percent from the year before.

That’s higher than confidence in the military (82 percent), or even in public school principals (80 percent)! It’s even higher than, can you believe it, the news media (47 percent, ahem) or elected officials (35 percent).

Except, like the polling nerds say, you have to check the cross-tabs—the particulars of who answered what question, and how. This particular survey compared trust in specific types of scientists. Specifically, it covered dietitians and nutrition scientists, clinicians and biomedical researchers, and (here we go) environmental health specialists and environmental scientists. In other words: nutrition, doctors, and climate change.”

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