Globally, 18% of people have a high level of trust in scientists, while 54% have a medium level of trust, and 14% have low trust.

Summary

  • The remaining 13% of people have no opinion about how much they trust scientists in their respective countries. This ranges from a third of people having ‘high’ trust in Australia and New Zealand, Northern Europe and Central Asia to around one in ten in Central and South America.
  • The two main factors associated with a person’s level of trust in scientists are learning science at school or college and confidence in key national institutions (such as the government, the military and the judiciary). All other things being equal, people who have studied science at school are more likely to trust scientists, as do people who have confidence in key national institutions.
  • However, the statistical analysis was able to explain only 15% of the variation in people’s trust in scientists, even when controlling for a number of factors, including personal background (gender, income, etc.) and other key variables.
  • Other factors that are significantly associated with trust in scientists include where a person lives (rural or urban area), how people feel about their income and access to a personal telephone and the internet. All other things being equal, people who live in rural areas are more likely to trust scientists than people living in an urban area or a small town or village; as are those who feel comfortable on their present income and who have access to mobile phones and the internet.
  • Perceptions of trust towards scientists are linked with an important social and economic trend affecting many countries throughout the world – rising income inequality. More economically unequal societies tend to have lower trust in scientists, even after controlling for a country’s wealth or development status, a statistical analysis shows.
  • Globally, 73% of people say they would trust a doctor or a nurse more than several other possible sources of health advice, including family, friends, religious leaders or famous people. This figure ranges from a low of 65% in East Asia and the Middle East, to a high of nearly 90% in Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Northern America and Australia and New Zealand. There are few differences in trust in doctors and nurses when considering key demographics, such as age, gender and education.
  • People in high-income countries are about as likely to have confidence in hospitals and health clinics in their country as lower-middle-income countries (78% and 82% respectively).
  • Personal household income may be a more important factor in shaping confidence in hospitals and health clinics than national income. People who say they find it difficult to get by on their present income are notably less likely to say they have confidence in their country’s hospitals and health clinics.
  • Worldwide, more than eight in ten people (84%) say they trust medical and health advice from medical workers (such as doctors and nurses) but this decreases to 76% for trust in that same advice from the government.

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Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 – Chapter 3

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