Public Trust in Science: Scientists' Views
The survey sample was weighted by gender and academic field to represent the population as closely as possible. The measure of sampling error for questions answered by the full sample is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
In this survey, we asked scientists about their opinions and experiences related to factors that may influence the public’s trust in science. Other results from this survey address scientists roles in fostering trust and the impact of different science news sources. This survey was designed in consultation with ASU’s News Co/Lab.
The majority of the respondents believe that public trust in science has decreased due to insufficient science education (79%), contradictory science findings (78%), active disinformation campaigns (78%) and researchers not communicating effectively with the public (76%).
Almost half of respondents felt that the following would have no impact on public trust:
- The questions many scientists ask don’t address public needs (47%)
- Belief that scientists do not care about people (49%)
70% of the respondents think scientists are extremely responsible for playing a role to increase public trust.
54% of the respondents believe demonstrating the practical applications of scientific research would help considerably to enhance public trust in science.
35% of the respondents think that recruiting lay spokespersons to promote science would help considerably to increase public trust.
42% of the respondents think that promoting research findings on social media would do little to help increase public trust.
The majority of the respondents (87%) think exclusive focus on producing research does not help at all to enhance public trust in science. Also, close to half of the respondents (42%) think engagement on social media does not help at all in increasing public trust in science.
About one third of the respondents (38%) think direct interaction with K-12 educators can help considerably to increase public trust in science.
This national survey of scientists and engineers was conducted by Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Studies at Arizona State University (ASU). The survey was designed in consultation with ASU’s News Co/Lab. The population for the survey represents a random sample of PhD-level faculty in two fields of science: biology and public health. Faculty contact information was collected from 60 randomly selected Carnegie-designated Research Extensive and Intensive (R1) universities in the United States (US) and from all CEPH accredited public health schools. The final sample included contact information for 2,553 scientists. A total of 575 usable responses were obtained, representing an AAPOR response rate (RR4) of 19.7%.
Sample Weighting and Precision: the completed sample was weighted by the inverse of selection probabilities and post-stratified by gender and academic field to represent the population as closely as possible. A conservative measure of sampling error for questions answered by the full sample is plus or minus 5 percentage points. The survey was approved by Institutional Review Boards at Arizona State University and at the University of Illinois at Chicago.