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article imageTrust for scientists remains strong despite anti-expert rhetoric

By Tim Sandle     Aug 4, 2019 in Science
Despite the anti-expert rhetoric exposed by some politicians (especially when they are unable to to challenge facts), the standing of scientists in the U.S. remains strong according to a new survey.
The continuing good standing of science as a trustworthy profession comes from newly issues research by the nonpartisan American fact tank Pew Research Center ("Trust and Mistrust in Americans’ Views of Scientific Experts"). This finds that the majority of U.S. citizens trust scientists. Furthermore, the standing of scientists is higher than any other public-facing profession. Compared with previous polls, the confidence in scientists by those in the U.S. has increased over the past few years.
The research was drawn from a poll of across the U.S., conducted by Pew, of around 4,500 adults during 2019. Such assessments are important given the attacks on science and scientists, which have become pat of the politician mainstream. Scientific American has found, for instance, that the Trump Administration has attacked science over 100 times in office (counting up until the end of March 2019).
Sandia National Laboratories scientists Seema Singh  left; and Fang Liu hold vials of vanillin and f...
Sandia National Laboratories scientists Seema Singh, left; and Fang Liu hold vials of vanillin and fermentation broth, which are critical for turning plant matter into biofuels and other valuable chemicals.
Dino Vournas
The types of activities engaged in by the Trump Administration extend to, as the Washington Post reported, censoring the ability of federal scientists to discuss their work in public; altering scientific information in reports and government Internet sites; downplaying the effects of climate change by attacking the scientists rather than the facts; and with disbanding several key scientific advisory committees.
Despite these political efforts, the poll finds, as Gizmodo summarizes, that 86 percent of U.S. citizens have at least a “fair amount” of confidence in scientists in terms of acting in the best interests of the public. Furthermore, 35 percent expressed a “great deal” of confidence in scientists.
However, there is some evidence of that the government's tactics are making an impression. Closer analysis of the data reveals that those who identify as or lean Republicans reported less confidence in scientists compared with those who are politically neutral, support the Democrats or lean towards an alternative party. The results also stress the importance of science and education and the ways that science is discussed in the media, for where there are high levels of familiarity with the subject matter and previous results, this leads to more positive and more trusting views of scientists.
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