Trust in science has always been a controversial topic, with people around the world struggling to discern between evidence, facts and beliefs. Yet with more scientific advancements came more achievements and apparently less skepticism.
Today, about 7 in 10 people say they trust scientists, although more than half of the world’s population admits it understands little about science.
A survey published on Wednesday by the international analytics and advisory firm Gallup, together with the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity, reveals that people around the world are interested in knowing more about science and health and 75 percent of those surveyed in 140 countries have confidence in their country’s health care system. Additionally, about two-thirds of people worldwide say they are interested in learning more about science, with the strongest levels of interest expressed by those living in low-income countries.
The findings come from 140,000 people surveyed and covered topics such as trust in science, scientists and health care information, as well as examining the levels of understanding and interest in science and health, the benefits of science, the compatibility of religion and science and attitudes on vaccines.
The survey’s findings are published at a time when some polls have shown increased skepticism in science in countries such as the United States. Additionally, the soaring number of measles cases in the U.S. and across Europe have placed new attention on the anti-vaccine movement. Earlier this year the World Health Organization named the anti-vaccine movement as one of the world’s top health threats for 2019.
Among the survey’s major findings:
- A greater share of younger people claim some knowledge of science than older people. “Worldwide, more than half the people aged 15–29 (53%) say they know ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about science, compared to 40% of those aged 30–49 and 34% of those aged 50 and older,” say the authors of the report.
- Overall, people around the world are interested in science, with 62% saying they would like to learn more about it.
- The understanding of concepts such as “science” and “scientist” vary around the world. For example, about 32% of people in Central Africa said “they understood none of the definitions presented to them or simply didn’t know what science and scientist meant, the report shows. In contrast, about 2% in Northern America and most of Europe gave a similar answer.
- 18% of those interviewed have a “high” level of trust in scientists; 54% reported “medium” levels of trust, 14% have “low” trust and 13% said they don’t know.
- About 70% of those surveyed say they feel that science benefits them. Only about 40% say they feel science benefits most people in their nation.
The report also examined people’s views on the relationship between religion and science. Among people declaring a religious affiliation, more than half said they would favor their religious teachings in any disagreement with science, while only 29% said they would agree with science.