Americans Trust COVID-19 Science, Despite Shifting Advice

July 10, 2020
Grace Halsey
Grace Halsey

Effective ways to limit SARS-CoV2 spread are reasonably well understood, say US adults, and the science can be trusted, even though advice keeps changing.

US adults say that the most effective ways to limit the spread of coronavirus are reasonably well understood. They also consider the conflicting advice about efforts to confront the virus that has come from the scientific community as an understandable part of the research process, not as a sign that the research can't be trusted.

These sentiments are positive news for primary care--and all clinicians, because they may telegraph a willingness among patients to be patient with the pace of discovery and evolution of best practices, patience that will be protective in the long run.

The opinions are based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted between April 29 and May 5, 2020.

More than two-thirds (70%) of Americans agree that the core strategies for containing the virus spread are well understood, despite the conflicting advice generated by continued research into the behavior of SARS-CoV2. A much smaller percentage (28%) say it is hard to know how to tamp down transmission.

The majority (78%) of Americans say the fluidity of the guidance makes sense because the recommendations are updated as the research improves. Less than one-quarter (21%) say the conflicting advice is simply evidence that the science can't be trusted.

The general esteem for research and the processes involved appears to parallel an increase in public trust in medical scientists, according to another Pew survey that found 76% of Americans reporting the pandemic has made scientific developments more important for society.

Confidence that medical scientists will act in the public's best interest have increased from 35% before the outbreak to 43%, according to a Pew Center April survey. Perceptions that medical doctors hold very high ethical standards have also grown more positive.