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science barometer 2020

For almost a year now the coronavirus pandemic has been changing our way of life. Science plays a central role in combating the pandemic and in solving the social challenges that come with it. Researchers have, therefore, increasingly come into the focus of politics and the public in recent months. How does this affect the public's perception of science and research? How do citizens perceive communication about science and research? The science barometer 2020 provides answers to these questions. Furthermore, a series of questions is included which were already raised at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in a science barometer corona special edition to provide a basis for comparisons.

Interest in research is quite stable 

The interest in science and research has not changed against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar to previous years, 60 per cent of respondents currently state that they are somewhat or very strongly interested in science and research. Overall the interest of respondents in science and research is greater than their interest in politics (49 per cent) but less than their interest in local issues (68 per cent).

Traditional news media are important sources of information on the internet

Four out of five respondents get their information about science and research online. 57 per cent of them often or very often use the websites of news media such as newspapers, magazines or TV channels. In 2018 it was 41 per cent. Social media are much less important by comparison. In 2020, 15 per cent of the respondents who get their information on science and research on the internet, say they use Facebook, Twitter or other social networks often or very often. This is comparable to the 16 per cent of respondents who indicated the same in 2018.

Trust in science and research

Trust in science and research in general remains high. Currently, 60 per cent of respondents state that they trust science and research somewhat or completely. This value is below those of the two surveys of the science barometer corona special edition in spring 2020, when 66 per cent of the respondents in May and 73 per cent of the respondents in April respectively stated that they trust in science and research. Nonetheless, the current level of trust is higher than it was in science barometer surveys in previous years. It is noticeable that the proportion of those who are undecided is lower in all survey waves of 2020 than it was in previous years. In contrast, the proportion of respondents who state they distrust somewhat or distrust completely remains stable.

Reasons for trust and distrust

Significantly more people than in the last year’s science barometer, namely 62 per cent of the respondents, agree that expertise and integrity of scientists are reasons to trust them. In 2019 only 52 per cent agreed. 70 per cent of the respondents agree that a reason to trust in scientists is that they are experts in their field. This value is also higher than in 2019, when 66 per cent agreed with this reason. 44 per cent of respondents currently agree that one reason for trusting scientists is that they do research in the public interests. Last year 43 per cent agreed.

Most of the respondents agree that the dependence of scientists on funders of their research is a reason to distrust scientists. Nevertheless, the proportion of those who somewhat or completely agree is currently 49 per cent, which is significantly lower than in the previous year (64 per cent). Likewise, 25 per cent of the respondents now agree with the statement that scientists often adjust results to their own expectations. In 2019, 39 per cent agreed.

Trust in statements about coronavirus pandemic by different actors

When it comes to statements about the coronavirus pandemic, doctors and medical staff enjoy the highest level of trust among the respondents, with 80 per cent who trust statements by doctors or medical staff somewhat or completely. 73 per cent trust statements made by scientists completely or somewhat , a proportion that has hardly changed since spring. On the other hand, there has been a sharp decline in confidence in the statements made by politicians about coronavirus pandemic.

Science-based policy in dealing with coronavirus pandemic

77 per cent of the respondents believe that political decisions on handling the coronavirus pandemic should be based on scientific evidence. In the surveys of the science barometer corona special edition in April 2020, 81 per cent agreed with this, in May 2020 it was 73 per cent. Conversely, the number of those who say that it is not up to scientists to get involved in politics has increased. In November 2020, 42 per cent of the respondents did not see it as the task of scientists to get involved in politics, while in April 2020, only 32 per cent shared this opinion.

Skepticism about science in the coronavirus pandemic

Even though trust in science and research is generally high and the majority of respondents (66 per cent) consider the measures against the coronavirus pandemic to be appropriate, the science barometer 2020 also shed light on skeptical positions on the pandemic, how it is dealt with and the role of science in it. Around 40 per cent of respondents agree that scientists do not tell us everything they know about the coronavirus. Just as many say that it is important to also get information on the coronavirus from outside the scientific community. Almost 30 per cent agree that the coronavirus pandemic is being made into a bigger deal than it actually is. 15 per cent of the respondents even think that there is no real proof that the coronavirus really exists. More than half of the respondents (55 per cent) state they would most likely or rather likely get vaccinated if a vaccine was approved in Germany. Nonetheless, almost 30 per cent state it was unlikely that they would get vaccinated.

Representative population survey

The science barometer is a survey that is representative of the population. It has been looking at the attitudes of citizens in Germany towards science and research since 2014. The results of the science barometer 2020 are based on 1.016 telephone interviews (dual frame of landlines/mobile phones, 80:20), which were conducted from 3 to 9 November 2020 by Kantar as part of an omnibus survey - on behalf of Wissenschaft im Dialog. Since the data was subjected to post-stratification weighting the results can be generalised to the German population aged over 14 years. The science barometer 2020 is a project of Wissenschaft im Dialog. It is funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Overview of the results


Graphics in jpg-format

The published results may be used under the condition that »Wissenschaft im Dialog/Kantar« are mentioned as the source of information. The graphics are running under the license CC BY-ND 4.0, format adjustment for the purpose of editorial publication is permitted.
Source: Wissenschaft im Dialog, CC BY-ND 4.0

Interest and Information Sources

Trust in science

Science within society

Science and coronavirus pandemic

Results of the previous years

The results of the science barometer corona special edition and of the science barometers 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 can also be found on the project website.



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