Covid 19 Delta outbreak: New Zealand leads world for trust in scientists and government – study


The 90% Project is an initiative of the NZ Herald that aims to reach out to all New Zealanders to raise awareness about vaccination so that we can save lives and restore freedoms. Video / NZ Herald

Our confidence in scientists is among the highest in the world, according to a recently published study that linked that faith to our support for the Covid-19 vaccination and other health measures.

The analysis – which drew on data from 12 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil and Sweden – also found that confidence in science was likely to be a driving force in attitudes favorable to vaccination.

The French and American authors of the study explored the confidence of people in the dozen countries in perfumes, as well as their confidence in their governments and other citizens, using a series of surveys conducted on different periods between March and December of last year.

While trust in scientists was generally high in all countries – with an average of 84% – New Zealand, along with Austria, Canada and the United Kingdom obtained the highest support, followed by Australia, while it was weakest in France, Brazil, Poland, the United States and Italy.

The analysis also found a strong link between the Kiwis’ confidence in science and their willingness to get vaccinated and track health measures.


The ranking of countries by trust in government and others was similar, with New Zealand, Austria and Sweden at the top of the list, and Italy, Brazil and France at the bottom of the list.

The authors noted that trust in government was “more ambiguous” than that in scientists – and where recommendations from experts and leaders clashed, such as in the United States and Brazil under Presidents Donald Trump and Jair. Bolsonaro, there was less support for anti-virus health. measures.

Interestingly, the study also found that in countries where people trusted each other more, support for health measures was lower, due to higher expectations that others would voluntarily distance themselves. of the society.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s chief science adviser, Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, told the Herald it was “very encouraging” to see New Zealand’s high ranking.

“A likely contributor is the tireless work done by our scientists and public health experts to support the Covid-19 response, and that of our science communicators as they tenaciously communicated the science behind the actions that have been taken,” she declared.

“I hope this will give us a solid foundation for strong vaccination uptake and acceptance of the basic public health restrictions that will be needed to move into the next phase of the pandemic.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's chief science adviser, Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, said it was heartwarming to see that the Kiwis have the most confidence in scientists in the world.  Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s chief science adviser, Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, said it was heartwarming to see that the Kiwis have the most confidence in scientists in the world. Photo / Greg Bowker

Massey University Communication Professor Dr Jagadish Thaker noted another fascinating experience that was featured in the study, which was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

“In New Zealand, respondents were more likely to agree to wear a mask at home to fight the coronavirus outbreak if the recommendation came from the World Health Organization than from the Prime Minister,” said Thaker.

“However, the Nobel Prize winners in medicine recommending such a measure had no difference from a similar recommendation from the Prime Minister, indicating greater trust in institutions than in individuals.”

Thaker said scientific independence was “critical” for giving objective advice to governments and maintaining public confidence.

In countries like Brazil, Italy, France and Poland, for example, the study found how confidence in scientists fell due to the pandemic, with more and more people perceiving that scientists were likely to hide information.

And sometimes, Thaker added, the initial public mistrust of government could fuel mistrust of what might be considered a “scientific elite”.

“In times of crisis, we look to reliable sources for information and advice. But this confidence also depends on the competence of people and institutions to respond to a crisis,” he said.

“Ensuring high levels of trust in scientists and government is key to garnering sustained public support and enthusiasm for tracking Covid-19 safety behaviors. “

Professor Marc Wilson, a psychology researcher at the University of Victoria, said his own work and that of his own colleagues found that Kiwis both trust scientists a little more and have more scientific knowledge than Americans.

“However, we find that the elements that predict confidence in scientists differ in strength,” he added.

“Distrust of scientists is significantly more strongly associated with politically conservative attitudes and religion in the United States than in New Zealand.”

This suggested that the politicization of science was one of the reasons for these differences seen in the new study.

Additionally, he said religion in New Zealand was not as closely tied to politics as it was in the United States, where about half of Americans agreed with the idea of evolution and accepted climate change.

Wilson pointed to other New Zealand research which found Kiwis appeared to suffer less psychological effects compared to last year’s nationwide lockdown – and maintained great confidence in scientists and government throughout. .

“My interpretation is, in part, that we were granted an unambiguous lockdown and trusted our medical, scientific and government experts that this was the right thing.”


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