Scientists have topped a survey of trusted professions, with adults in the US more confident that they act in the public’s best interests than employees from any other line of work studied.
The survey found that confidence in scientists has risen markedly since 2016 and more than half of American adults believe the specialists should be actively involved in policy decisions surrounding scientific matters.
The upswing in public trust, a rise of 10 percentage points since 2016, led to 86% of US adults expressing at least a “fair amount” of confidence that scientists put the public interest first. The trust rating placed scientists above politicians, the military, business leaders, school principals and journalists.
Trust in non-scientific professions has remained largely stable since 2016 with school heads on 77%, religious leaders on 57%, journalists on 47%, business leaders on 46% and politicians earning the lowest mark at 35%, the survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington DC found.
Cary Funk, the director of science and society research at the organisation, said it was unclear why confidence in science had grown but described much of the public trust as “soft” support. “It is a pattern we see a lot,” she said. “At the highest level, public views tend to be positive, but there tends to be more soft support.”
Delving deeper into the figures shows the proportion of people with a “great deal” of confidence in scientists has risen from 21% to 35% since 2016, meaning about half of the people who trust scientists are more reserved in their support.