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

70 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2021

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 Aksoy

University College London

Orkun Saka

City, University of London; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Systemic Risk Centre & STICERD; CESifo Network

Multiple version iconThere are 6 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2021

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.

JEL Classification: D830, F500, I190

Suggested Citation

Eichengreen, Barry and Aksoy, Cevat and Saka, Orkun, Revenge of the Experts: Will COVID-19 Renew or Diminish Public Trust in Science? (2021). CESifo Working Paper No. 8884, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3788704 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3788704

Barry Eichengreen (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Cevat Aksoy

University College London ( email )

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Orkun Saka

City, University of London ( email )

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London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

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