More on public “trust of scientists”: *You* tell *me* what it means!

Okay, so I’ve done a good number of posts on “trust” in science/scientists. The basic gist of them is that I think  it’s pretty ridiculous to think that any significant portion of the US public distrusts the authority of science — epistemic, cultural, political, etc. — or that partisan divisions in regard to trust in science/scientists can plausibly explain polarization over particular risks or other policy-relevant facts that admit of scientific inquiry (vice versa is a closer call but even there I’m not persuaded).

So here’s some more data on the subject.

It comes from a large (N = 2000) nationally representative survey administered as part of an ongoing collaborative research project by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and CCP (it’s a super cool project on reasoning & political polarization; I’ve been meaning to do a post on it — & will, tomorrow”!).

The survey asked respondents to indicate on a 6-point “agree-disagree” Likert measure whether they “think scientists who work” (or in one case, “do research for”) in a particular institutional setting “can be trusted to tell the public the truth.”

The institutions in questions were NASA, the CDC, the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA, “Industry,” the military, and “universities.”

We had each subject evaluate the trustworthiness of only one such group of scientists.

Often researchers and pollsters ask respondents to asses the trustworthiness of multiple groups of scientists, or of scientists generally in relation to multiple other groups.

One problem with that method is that it introduces a “beauty pageant” element in which respondents rank the institutions.  If that’s what their doing, one might conclude that the public “trusts” a group of scientists or scientists generally more than they actually do simply because they trust the others even less.

So what did we find?

I’ll tell you (just hold on, be patient).

But I won’t tell you what I make of the findings. 

Do they support the widespread lament of a creeping “anti-science” sensibility in the U.S.?

Or the claim that Republicans/conservatives in particular are anti-science or less trusting in science than they were in the past.

Or do they show “the left” is in fact “anti-science” — as much so or more than “the right” etc.

You tell me!

Actually, I’m sure everyone will come to exactly the same conclusion on these questions.  Here as elsewhere, the facts speak for themselves!

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