I&I/TIPP Poll: The Distrust Of Scientists Is Widespread — Including On COVID Vaccines

I&I/TIPP Poll: The Distrust Of Scientists Is Widespread — Including On COVID Vaccines

A substantial portion of the country distrusts scientists. Is the politicization of science to blame?

Terry Jones

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%.

I&I/TIPP Poll asking Americans how much trust do they have towards Scientists and vaccine safety

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.

I&I/TIPP Poll Asking americans how much trust do they have towards scientists and the Coronavirus Origin

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.

I&I/TIPP Poll askling americans how much trust do you have in regards to scientists and climate change?

September’s data come from the monthly I&I/TIPP poll, conducted by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, I&I’s polling partner. The online poll of 1,305 adults was taken from Sept. 1 through Sept. 3. The poll, part of a broad new public opinion collaboration between Issues & Insights and TIPP, has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 points.

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%).

Climate change, which has been a polarizing political issue for three decades, suffers from public perceptions of exaggerated threats, questionable data, and bad predictions from climate models.

Most Republicans and a significant share of independents see climate change policy, over the years largely driven by the Democratic Party, as a cynical attempt to impose greater government control over the economy and Americans’ lives. Meanwhile, for many if not most Democrats, ending the use of fossil fuels and slashing carbon dioxide emissions amount to nothing less than a civilizational survival imperative.

When President Joe Biden recently called climate change the “greatest threat” to U.S. national security, it was a message that surely confused and angered many voters, who in polls routinely rank climate change at or near the bottom of their list of key concerns. Politicians and others who claim “the debate is over” only infuriate those who remain skeptical of the science, helping to further exacerbate political differences.

In such a hyper-politicized environment, even the most apolitical of scientists can get hit by the partisan crossfire.

Moreover, the massive volume of research on these scientific topics is overwhelming and often contradictory, leading to public confusion and mixed messages from policymakers. In recent years, more than half of peer-reviewed studies in some scientific disciplines can’t be reproduced by other scientists, a sign of something deeply wrong in science.

The problem has grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been further amplified by both social media and phony so-called experts, explains John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and population health at Stanford University:

Anyone who was not an epidemiologist or health policy specialist could suddenly be cited as an epidemiologist or health policy specialist by reporters who often knew little about those fields but knew immediately which opinions were true. Conversely, some of the best epidemiologists and health policy specialists in America were smeared as clueless and dangerous by people who believed themselves fit to summarily arbitrate differences of scientific opinion without understanding the methodology or data at issue.

Of note, the I&I/TIPP data were collected before Biden’s recent decision to require companies with 100 employees or more to vaccinate all their employees.

The data appear to bolster recent comments even by some scientists of a growing public crisis of confidence in science in general and scientists in particular.

Terry Jones is editor of Issues & Insights. During his four decades of journalism experience, he served as both associate editor and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

Cover photo:  Dr. Jonathan Hartwell (right) and his assistant Sylvy R. Levy Kornberg conduct some of the earliest chemotherapy tests at the National Cancer Institute, about 1950. Photo credit:  National Cancer Institute.


TIPP Takes

China Taking Advantage Of Honduras Vote, Taipei Says

The national flag of Honduras, fourth left, along with the flags of Taiwan, left, and some of Taiwan’s other diplomatic allies are displayed in a hall at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei on Sept. 16, 2019.
The national flag of Honduras, fourth left, along with the flags of Taiwan, left, and some of Taiwan’s other diplomatic allies are displayed in a hall at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei on Sept. 16, 2019.

Taiwan on Friday accused China of seeking to use the Honduran election to "create controversy" and undermine Taiwan's long-standing ties with the country.

Honduras' main left-wing opposition party, the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), led by ousted former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, has said that if it wins November's presidential election, it will seek to "readjust" the country's debt and establish diplomatic relations with China.

Honduras is one of 15 U.N. member countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

China's efforts to win over Taiwan's remaining allies have alarmed Washington, especially concerned about Beijing's growing influence.

In September 2019, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati were the last countries to cut ties with Taipei.


Iran To Continue Allowing IAEA Camera Recording At Nuclear Facilities

Iran nuclear program

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency have agreed to continue IAEA recording with surveillance cameras installed at the country's nuclear facilities.

However, the recorded video will not be provided to the IAEA. Its inspections will still be restricted, making it difficult for the U.N. nuclear watchdog to grasp the complete picture of Iran's nuclear development, AEOI chief Mohammad Eslami said.

A joint statement issued after the talks, which Eslami called "good and constructive," said IAEA inspectors are "permitted to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media," thus allowing recording to continue.

But the surveillance camera memory cards "will be kept under the joint IAEA and AEOI seals in the Islamic Republic of Iran," it said.


Climate Change Dominates Norway Election

Norway Election Infographic

Norway, Western Europe's biggest oil producer, goes to the polls in an election dominated by the issue of climate change, which the ruling Conservative party is widely expected to lose to a Labour-led coalition.

Norway has the largest proponents of green solutions such as electric cars and carbon capture storage: seven in 10 new vehicles sold last month in Norway were fully electric.

But the country also has a massive sovereign wealth fund accumulated on the back of oil and gas output.

Since August's publication of the U.N. climate report (IPPC), climate change has been a top issue, with left and green parties seeing poll numbers climb.

However, with three possible premier candidates – Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party, Jonas Gahr Stoere of the Labour Party, and Trygve Slagsvold Vedum of the Centre Party – all favoring continued oil drilling, there appears little chance of the environmental lobby calling time on an industry that accounts for 42% of national exports and employs approximately 160,000 people.


Pope Francis Calls For 'Openness' After Meeting Hungary's Viktor Orban

Pope Francis Calls For 'Openness' After Meeting Hungary's Viktor Orban

The Pope told tens of thousands thronging the vast Heroes' Square in Budapest that he wanted them to be "grounded and open, rooted and considerate."

In Hungary to close the International Eucharistic Congress, the Pope met Orban and other senior politicians behind closed doors in Budapest's Fine Arts Museum.

The Argentine regularly reminds "old Europe" that its culture and society were built on waves of new arrivals.

Earlier in the day, he told Hungarian bishops that various ethnic and religious groups had "transformed this country into a multicultural environment," presenting a "great opportunity."

Over the past few years, there has been no love lost between Orban supporters in Hungary and the leader of the Catholic world.

Pro-Orban media and political figures have launched barbs at the pontiff, calling him "anti-Christian" for his pro-refugee sentiments.


Fawzia Yusuf Adam, The Somali Woman Running For President

Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam
Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam

A lawmaker in Somalia who became the country's first female foreign minister is now running for the presidency.

Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam is well aware of the challenges in winning votes in a conservative Muslim nation where women have been historically marginalized.

Adam, a widow, and mother of three, said she believes her campaign for the presidency is worthwhile and could break down barriers for other women.

She argues that her gender could be an asset in helping Somalia to emerge from years of deadly violence marked by devastating attacks from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group.

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