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

71 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2020

See all articles by Cevat Aksoy

Cevat Aksoy

University College London

Barry Eichengreen

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

Orkun Saka

City, University of London; London School of Economics; Systemic Risk Centre & STICERD; CESifo Network

Multiple version iconThere are 6 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 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.

Suggested Citation

Aksoy, Cevat and Eichengreen, Barry and Saka, Orkun, Revenge of the Experts: Will Covid-19 Renew or Diminish Public Trust in Science? (November 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP15447, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3737580

Cevat Aksoy (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

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Barry Eichengreen

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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Orkun Saka

City, University of London ( email )

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London School of Economics

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Systemic Risk Centre & STICERD

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