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Polarized Science Confidence

A new survey indicates that Americans' confidence in science is becoming more and more polarized, the Associated Press reports.

The General Social Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found that about 48 percent of US adults have a "great deal" of trust in the scientific community, but there was a gap in that confidence by political affiliation, the AP adds. Sixty-four percent of Democrats and 34 percent of Republicans said they trusted the scientific community, a gap the AP notes has grown since 2018 when 51 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans said they had confidence in the scientific community.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, tells the AP that this widening gap — which is also observed in trust in the medical community — is not unexpected, as Democrats and Republicans appear to be taking their cues from party leaders.

Jennifer Benz, deputy director of the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, adds there that this increasing confidence gap is not seen for other institutions and could in part reflect political reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's certainly plausible that this is a result of how politicized the pandemic became in the months between when it emerged and when the survey ran," Benz tells the AP. "It is definitely a stark change for these particular trends on confidence in scientific leaders and leaders in medicine, to see this degree of polarization."