Public trust in science soared in pandemic, says global survey

Trust in scientists rose in the UK at a faster rate than the global average during the pandemic, Wellcome Trust finds

November 29, 2021
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Public trust in scientists rose significantly during the pandemic, a major global poll has found.

According to the Wellcome Global Monitor, which asked more than 119,000 people in 113 countries about their attitudes towards science, more than three-quarters of people said they trusted science (80 per cent) and scientists (77 per cent).

The proportion of those who said they trust science and scientists “a lot” – 41 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively – rose by 9 percentage points since 2018, to roughly the same level as doctors and nurses, the report says.

In the UK, public trust in scientists grew even more sharply – with the proportion of those trusting scientists a lot rising by 13 percentage points since 2018 to 60 per cent. For science in general, trust rose in the UK by 10 percentage points to 63 per cent.

Only doctors and nurses are more trusted on average (67 per cent), far more than national government, which was trusted a lot by just 23 per cent of UK respondents, albeit that was almost double the 2018 rate of 12 per cent.

Lara Clements, associate director (public engagement and campaigns) at the Wellcome Trust, which commissioned the Gallup study, said the Covid-19 pandemic had “thrust scientists into the spotlight, where they have provided information and guidance affecting the day-to-day lives of billions of people”.

“As the pandemic has brought science into more people’s lives, it is perhaps no surprise that people’s trust in science and scientists has risen so much,” said Ms Clements.

The poll, which was undertaken between August 2020 and February 2021, also found that people in Australia and New Zealand trusted scientists “a lot” the most (62 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa the least (19 per cent). In East Asia, trust rose by the largest margin from 2018, from 33 per cent to 49 per cent.

Trust in science rose in people who said they have “some” science knowledge in 2020 to 48 per cent, up from 39 per cent in 2018, while for those who knew “not much” or “nothing at all about science” in 2020, trust rose to 33 per cent, up from 25 per cent two years earlier.

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Reader's comments (1)

So have people still "had enough of experts", Michael Gove?