Oct 7, 2020 - Health

Trust in science rose during the pandemic: survey

An illustration of a scientist's hand

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Skepticism toward science fell globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new survey data commissioned by 3M.

The big picture: Science is having a moment as researchers race to create COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and people seek information about how to curb transmission of the virus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly causing people to think more about science,” says Gayle Schueller, chief sustainability officer at 3M, which worked with the research firm Ipsos on its State of Science Index.

Key takeaway: After three years of trending upward, skepticism toward science fell globally from 35% of people agreeing with the statement "I am skeptical of science" in a pre-pandemic survey to 28% in a survey taken in July and August of 2020.

What they found:

  • Trust in science and scientists also rose during the pandemic. That's in line with a recent Pew Research Center survey that found majorities of people around the world had at least some trust in scientists, though there are significant differences between those who lean politically left versus right in places like the U.S. and Canada.
  • Healthcare (both treatments for COVID-19 and for cancer and chronic illness), STEM and social justice equity, and addressing climate change were the highest priority issues for science to solve among the people surveyed.
  • In the U.S., 50% of people who said they were discouraged from pursuing science in school cited gender, race and ethnic inequalities as a reason, compared with 27% globally.
  • Globally, 82% of respondents agreed there are negative consequences to society if science isn't valued and 92% agreed people should follow scientific evidence about COVID-19.

Yes, but: 32% of people surveyed said if science didn't exist, their everyday life wouldn't be that different, a disconnect seen in earlier surveys.

  • "As a scientist, I find it painful that people aren’t seeing that connection between science and daily life," says Schueller.
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