Public faith in science in the United States through the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic

Public Health Pract (Oxf). 2021 Nov:2:100103. doi: 10.1016/j.puhip.2021.100103. Epub 2021 Mar 16.


Objectives: Given the centrality of science over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, we evaluate changes in people's beliefs in the power of science in the United States over the first four months of the pandemic.

Study design: Post-hoc analysis of cross-sectional survey data.

Methods: A convenience sample of 1327 participants was recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk service for three surveys carried out in 14-25 January, 27 March to 1 April, and 28-29 May of 2020. Respondents completed a ten-item instrument measuring different aspects of their perceptions of science including trust, interest, and faith (answer to the question: "How much do you agree with the following statement: Science can sort out any problem."). We conducted multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) with faith, interest, and trust as dependent variables, time as the independent variable, and political orientation and religiosity as between-subjects covariates.

Results: The data revealed that public levels of faith in science increased between January (M ​= ​3.2) and both March (M ​= ​3.42) and May (M ​= ​3.4). By contrast, we observed no changes in interest and trust in science over the same time period.

Conclusions: We speculate that increases in faith in science during the first four months of the pandemic helped people cope with the uncertainty and existential anxiety resulting from this public health crisis.

Keywords: Belief in science; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Faith in science; Trust in science.