by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
From coronavirus vaccines and the virus’ origin to climate change, a substantial portion of the country distrusts scientists to do their jobs honestly and capably. The latest data from the September Issues & Insights/TIPP Poll also found significant differences among Americans of different political views, reflecting a growing politicization of science in America.
The I&I/TIPP poll asked Americans “how much trust do you place in scientists” in three areas of science prominent in today’s headlines: “vaccine safety,” “climate change,” and “coronavirus origin.”
Overall, among the three, vaccine safety was tops in scientist trust, at 61%. Perhaps not surprisingly, that almost perfectly matches the share of the U.S. population currently vaccinated: 63%.
But just 45% said they trusted scientists when it comes to the actual origins of the coronavirus. A scientific debate has raged over whether the virus originated in a Wuhan “wet market” or in the Chinese-government-run Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The debate revived this month after revelations that the U.S.’ top COVID-19 scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, helped fund dangerous gain-of-function virus research at the Wuhan lab. That laboratory has been implicated as the likely site for the creation and subsequent release of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
As for climate change, just 54% of those queried said they trusted scientists, a sign of significant mistrust despite overwhelming media sensationalism and extreme political bias on the global warming issue. …
… By far, the greatest differences of opinion on these questions seem to come from political party affiliation.
For instance, on the question of trusting scientists on vaccine safety, Democrats (79%) were far more likely to trust them than either Republicans (42%) or independents/other (57%). On the origins of COVID-19, a similar split could be seen: Dems (64%), GOP (28%), and independents (41%).
Climate change showed the widest political divisions of all when it came to trusting the scientific community: Dems (74%), GOP (32%), and independents (50%).