POLITICS
05/03/2017 05:50 pm ET

Americans' Trust In Scientists Splits Along Partisan Lines

The divide isn't new, but it may be growing.
The March for Science in Washington, D.C., on April 22 led to some concerns that science has become more politicized.
Aaron Bernstein / Reuters
The March for Science in Washington, D.C., on April 22 led to some concerns that science has become more politicized.

Americans’ trust in scientists is deeply split along partisan lines, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

A 54 percent majority of Democrats, compared with just 13 percent of Republicans, say they have “a lot” of trust that what scientists say is accurate and reliable. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans trust scientists at least “a little,” with 5 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans saying they don’t trust them at all.

There’s an even sharper split between voters who supported President Donald Trump in last year’s election, and those who backed his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Nearly three-quarters of Clinton voters but just 10 percent of Trump voters ― and 26 percent of those who sat the election out ― say they have a lot of trust in scientists’ findings.

Nearly 40 percent of Republicans, compared with 12 percent of Democrats, say they often worry that scientific studies influenced by political ideology. They’re more wary of the possibility for corporate influence as well ― 40 percent of Republicans, but just 19 percent of Democrats, say they often worry that studies are influenced by pressure from the companies or organizations funding them.

Questions about the role of science in America’s political sphere took on new relevance during last month’s March for Science, which some scientists worried risked politicizing the discipline. One study, conducted in the days before and after the march, found that views of scientists’ altruism became more polarized in the aftermath of the march but that views about scientific research did not, according to The New York Times.

The partisan divide over trust in science isn’t exactly new, although there are signs it may have grown in recent years. In a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken four years ago, Democrats were 28 percentage points likelier than Republicans to express a lot of trust in scientists’ findings; in 2015, the gap was a relatively similar 25 points.

But by last spring, that divide was 31 points, and the most recent poll finds it widened to 41 points, due both to increasing levels of trust among Democrats and a corresponding decline among Republicans.

Concerns about the politicization of science, by contrast, have remained relatively stable. Republicans are currently 25 points likelier than Democrats to say they often worry studies are influenced by political ideology, effectively unchanged from the 24-point difference on that question in 2015.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted April 28-29 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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