FEATURED REPORT

Expertise Under Assault

- March 5, 2021
Is skepticism toward scientists and other experts growing?
Photo of protesters in Los Angeles, California, in January rallying against the COVID-19 vaccine. (Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/Irfan Khan)
Distrust of government and scientific experts has taken disturbing forms recently — from the violent attack on the Capitol by a mob that refused to believe election results, to conspiracy theories about the supposed dangers of vaccines. A society that does not believe the same set of facts cannot hold together, some experts warn. If more people are not persuaded to trust the coronavirus vaccine, the nation might not be able to achieve the “herd immunity” needed to stop the pandemic.

Biden Policy Changes

Social Media Developments

Vaccine Hesitancy Declining

 
18th–19th CenturiesEarly presidents favor education but the nation's schools are poorly funded.
1920s–1950sNew Deal federal agencies claim new powers and expert status, spurring industry opposition to government experts.
1960s–1980sConsumer and environmental movements emerge; conservatives begin to lose trust in science.
1990s–PresentRepublican presidents roll back regulations; anti-vaccine movement continues to grow despite coronavirus pandemic.
   

Is there a credibility crisis in science?

Pro

Jon A. Krosnick
Professor of Political Science, Communication and Psychology, Stanford University.

Con

Daniele Fanelli
Fellow, Department of Methodology, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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