Revenge of the Experts: Will COVID-19 Renew or Diminish Public Trust in Science?

68 Pages Posted: 29 May 2020 Last revised: 1 Dec 2020

See all articles by Barry Eichengreen

Barry Eichengreen

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Cevat Giray Aksoy

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; King’s College London; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Orkun Saka

University of Sussex; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Multiple version iconThere are 6 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 30, 2020

Abstract

It is sometimes said that an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic will be heightened appreciation of the importance of scientific research and expertise. We test this hypothesis by examining how exposure to previous epidemics affected trust in science and scientists. Building on the “impressionable years hypothesis” that attitudes are durably formed during the ages 18 to 25, we focus on individuals exposed to epidemics in their country of residence at this particular stage of the life course. Combining data from a 2018 Wellcome Trust survey of more than 75,000 individuals in 138 countries with data on global epidemics since 1970, we show that such exposure has no impact on views of science as an endeavor but that it significantly reduces trust in scientists and in the benefits of their work. We also illustrate that the decline in trust is driven by the individuals with little previous training in science subjects. Finally, our evidence suggests that epidemic-induced distrust translates into lower compliance with health-related policies in the form of negative views towards vaccines and lower rates of child vaccination.

Keywords: COVID-19, epidemics, trust, science, scientist

JEL Classification: P16, Z13, Z18

Suggested Citation

Eichengreen, Barry and Aksoy, Cevat Giray and Saka, Orkun, Revenge of the Experts: Will COVID-19 Renew or Diminish Public Trust in Science? (November 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3613554 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3613554

Barry Eichengreen

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Cevat Giray Aksoy (Contact Author)

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development ( email )

One Exchange Square
London EC2A 2JN
United Kingdom

King’s College London ( email )

Aldwych
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Orkun Saka

University of Sussex ( email )

Sussex House
Falmer
Brighton, Sussex BNI 9RH
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
163
Abstract Views
1,597
rank
102,283
PlumX Metrics