Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Science vs The Press

Science and journalism share certain traits. They are both disciplines of verification, for example, and they both often tell us uncomfortable truths about ourselves. They also often find themselves criticized by partisans, especially (but not exclusively) from the political right.

While messing with other General Social Survey cumulative data, I decided to briefly see how the press and science have fared over time in terms of, for lack of a better term, "consumer confidence." My hunch, based on criticism, was that both the press and science, broadly defined, would suffer more or less the same in terms of confidence. I was wrong.

The question is simple:
I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?
My graphic is the percentage of folks from 1973 to 2014 who answered "hardly any" confidence. As you can see, the press suffers serious erosion over time, while science suffers little erosion and the percentage of those with "hardly any" confidence remains in single digits. For the press it nears the halfway mark (44.8 percent in 2014). Scary.

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