Paul Stoneman Talks about the PERITIA Survey on Trust in Expertise with the European Science-Media Hub

PERITIA researcher Dr Paul Stoneman (The Policy Institute, King’s College London) was featured on the European Science-Media Hub with an interview about the results of our recently released survey on trust in expertise and science. In the article, Stoneman offered an overview of the key takeaways of the survey for understanding how the public perceives policy decisions informed by science. Three highlights of the interview include:

1. “We see an increase in polarisation of complete trust or no trust at all in scientists.”

“In relation to climate change scientists, we see an increase in the percentage of people saying either that they completely trust or have no trust at all in such scientists. In relation to scientists working on tackling Covid-19, we see this bifurcation increase even more. The implication here is that when certain scientific issues become more politically charged, public opinion moves towards greater polarisation between those who completely trust scientists and those who have no trust at all.”

2. “Getting people to be consistently engaged with salient topics like climate change is a difficult task.”

“For the average person, life is complicated enough with work and family commitments, money troubles, and maintaining personal health, just to name a few. To then hope or expect people to spend time reading, thinking about, and even debating big and complicated topics like climate change on a regular basis is probably too much to ask. This makes it even more important that, when scientific consensus is reached and the government needs to take a lead on enacting scientifically informed public policy, these lines of communication are clear and not muddied by narrow political interests.”

3. “Much of our world perceptions are filtered through political lenses.”

“Since governments are such an important conduit between the general public and wider public authorities, governmental communication on scientific issues and responses needs to be as clear and effective as possible.  Note: I didn’t say ‘science communication’ in general, but science as communicated by the government. Since much of our world perceptions are filtered through political lenses, we need to ensure that governments can bring the urgency of certain issues across political mindsets that would be ordinarily immune to problems like climate change.”

The European Science-Media Hub is part of the European Parliament’s research service and brings together scientists, journalists and policymakers to discuss ways to communicate sound science to the general public.

Read the full interview here.

Read more about the PERITIA survey on the following links:

Climate Change: Less than Half Say UK Government Motivated by Improving Lives of Future Generations

Public Hugely Underestimate Scientific Consensus on Climate Change, PERITIA Study Finds

Seven in Ten People Think That Nearly all Scientists Agree That Vaccines Are Safe – PERITIA Survey

Protecting own reputation and making money seen as motivating governments’ and scientists’ Covid responses to different degrees

Negative Feelings towards Government Are Highest in Poland and UK – PERITIA Survey