Trust in science and scientists: Effects of social attitudes and motivations on views regarding climate change, vaccines and gene drive technology

H. G. W. Dixson, A. F. Komugabe-Dixson, F. Medvecky, J. Balanovic, H. Thygesen and E. A. MacDonald,  Journal of Trust Research,  2023.

Trust in science and scientists (TSS) is an increasingly important topic with respect to how science is applied within society. However, its role regarding specific issues may vary depending upon other psychosocial factors. In this study, we investigated how trust interacts with social attitudes and motivations to shape views on scientific issues in New Zealand (N = 8,199; 74.7% New Zealand European, 55.1% female). The study went beyond TSS by including broader institutional trust alongside measures relating to support for inequality, status quo preservation and fear of the unknown. We focused on their effects on three issues: vaccines, climate change and genetic technology (gene drive). Although TSS was strongly associated with lower vaccine skepticism (B = -0.497, p < 0.01), and moderate support for gene drive (B = 0.231, p < 0.01), it had no meaningful effect on climate skepticism. Furthermore, trust differentially mediated the relationship between social motivations and responses to all three issues. Trust in science and scientists is therefore unlikely to represent a one-size-fits-all variable. We conclude that future research should consider what effects trust in institutions and TSS have with social attitudes and motivations over a range of technologies across the sciences.

More related to this: