Republicans' confidence in science plunges as misinformation spreads

288

Among Americans who align themselves with the GOP, confidence in science has fallen 27 points since 1975, at a time when public health professionals are speaking out against the dangers of vaccine misinformation.

New polling released Friday by the public opinion research firm Gallup finds that Republicans are far less confident in science than they were four decades ago, posing a major challenge to the ongoing campaign to get Americans vaccinated against the Coronavirus.

A total of 64% of Americans told Gallup they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in science, down slightly from the 70% of Americans who said the same thing in 1975, the last time the organization asked the question.

But that small drop in confidence overall comes almost entirely from changes in Republican responses: Just 45% of Republicans say they're confident in science today, compared to 72% who said they were confident 46 years ago.

Democrats, meanwhile, report an increase in confidence in science, with 79% saying they're confident today versus 67% in 1975. The 2021 poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,381 American adults from June 1 through July 5, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Gallup notes that this 34-point difference in confidence between Republicans and Democrats is among the largest partisan gaps measured for any of the U.S. institutions they asked about, exceeding that of newspapers (27 points), organized religion (25 points), and the military (16 points).

Only the partisan split on confidence in the police and the presidency were greater, with Republicans' confidence in the police 45 percentage points higher than Democrats', and Democrats' confidence in the presidency 49 points higher than Republicans.'

Gallup's finding comes at a time when White House officials and public health professionals are raising the alarm on vaccine misinformation. Speaking from the White House briefing room Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy decried misinformation about the Coronavirus vaccine as an "imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health," releasing a 22-page advisory in which he said responding to it was a "a moral and civic imperative."

In recent weeks, Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have been back on the rise, as the highly infectious delta variant spreads. Those who have been infected are overwhelmingly unvaccinated individuals, according to experts, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky saying last month that adult deaths from Covid-19 are "at this point entirely preventable" thanks to vaccines.

Still, misinformation about the safety and efficacy of those vaccines continues to proliferate, primarily on social media and right-wing television. Hosts on channels like Fox News and Newsmax have repeatedly undermined vaccine safety and critiqued the Biden administration's vaccination campaigns.

Studies have found a gap in vaccination rates between counties that supported former President Trump in the 2020 election and those that supported President Biden, with July data showing 47% of those living in Biden-supporting counties were fully vaccinated compared to a 35% vaccination rate in counties that broke for Trump.

Though numerous factors impact the rate of vaccination in a given county, experts point to misinformation on right-wing media as a key component of the partisan vaccination gap.

"If you have constant exposure to an outlet that is raising vaccination hesitancy, raising questions about vaccinations, that is something to anchor you in your position that says, 'I'm not going to take the vaccine,'" Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.