Political divisions on confidence in the scientific and medical communities have widened, according to an analysis of the 2021 General Social Survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey, conducted a year into the pandemic, finds confidence in the scientific community has increased among Democrats between 2018 and 2021, but fell among Republicans.
The General Social Survey has been conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago since 1972, and is the organization's longest-running project.
According to the new analysis, 48% of Americans overall have a great deal of confidence in the scientific community. But there is now a 30-point gap in confidence between Democrats and Republicans, up from a 9-point gap in 2018. In 2021, 64% of Democrats have a great deal of confidence in the scientific community, whereas only 34% of Republicans say the same.
A similar pattern, though less severe, is observed for confidence in medicine. Thirty-eight percent of Americans overall report a great deal of confidence in medicine in 2021, though confidence is higher among Democrats (45%) than Republicans (34%).
While Democrats historically tend to have greater trust in the scientific community and both parties exhibited similar levels of trust in medicine in the last two decades, this political polarization increased between 2018 and 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and health and vaccine information became increasingly politicized.