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Science barometer 2021

With the Science Barometer, Wissenschaft im Dialog has, since 2014, regularly determined the attitudes of the population toward science and research in population-representative surveys. What is the level of trust in science? What social role do science and research play in the eyes of the public? How interested are people in scientific topics and what channels do they use to find out about them?

Last year, against the backdrop of the Corona pandemic, the Science Barometer 2020 also addressed the resulting changes in the perception of science and research. Due to the relevance of the topic, two additional surveys were conducted as part of a "Corona Special". The results showed that the public's trust in science and research is high - even in times of crisis.

In 2021, the virus is still our daily companion: The fourth survey wave within the course of the coronavirus pandemic clearly shows how important a regular science survey is. Only in this way can reliable statements be made about developments and trends in public opinion on science and research in Germany.

One topic that has also been the subject of much public debate over the past year and a half is the relationship between science and politics. The Science Barometer 2021 therefore also asks about people's attitudes and opinions on issues and processes of scientific policy advice.

Trust in science and research remains high

Increased trust in science and research in the context of the coronavirus pandemic (2020: 60%, 2019: 46%, 2018: 54%, 2017: 50%) is similar to the levels of trust observed in November 2020 at 61 per cent. Only the two survey waves of the "Corona Special" in April and May 2020 showed higher levels of public trust in science at 73 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively.

Sciencists, doctors and medical staff enjoy high levels of trust in their statements about the coronavirus pandemic, but sceptical voices remain

In addition to general trust in science and research, trust in statements made by the scientific community in the context of the coronavirus pandemic is also high (2021: 73%, November 2020: 73%, April 2020: 71%). Trust in statements by doctors and medical staff is even higher (2021: 79%, November 2020: 80%, April 2020: 79%). Less trust, on the other hand, is placed in statements made by official representatives and politicians (2021: 34%, 21% and 18%).

Sceptical positions despite high levels of trust

However, sceptical voices also remain: For example, 39 per cent somewhat or completely agree with the statement "Scientists are not telling us everything they know about the coronavirus" (19% undecided, 40% somewhat or completely disagree). The statement that the pandemic is being made into a bigger deal than it actually is was somewhat or completely agreed with by 26 percent (12% undecided, 61% was somewhat or completely agreed with).

Desire for scientific policy advice

The high level of trust in science and research is also accompanied by a desire for political decisions to be based on scientific findings: more than two-thirds of respondents (69%) believe that political decisions should be based on scientific evidence. 75 per cent also think that scientists should take a public stand when political decisions do not take research results into account. In contrast, 44 per cent of the respondents somewhat or completely agree with the statement that it is not up to scientists to get involved in politics (23% undecided, 32% somewhat or completely disagree). 

Scientist's role in political decision-making processes on the coronavirus pandemic

In the specific context of the coronavirus pandemic, half of the respondents think that scientists should recommend certain decisions to policymakers based on scientific evidence. 31 per cent, on the other hand, think that they should only explain decision options and their consequences, but not give specific recommendations. 18 per cent think scientists should only inform politicans about scientific findings.

Lack of clarity about the function of policy advice

There is some ambiguity about the way policy advice on the Corona pandemic is delivered by the scientific community: 43 per cent of the respondents agree either somewhat or completely that they have an idea of the influence that advice from scientists has on political decisions in Germany. 17 percent either somewhat or completely disagree with the statement, 36 per cent are undecided. Only 29 per cent of the respondents say they have an idea of how scientists are selected for their political advisory work. 39 per cent somewhat or completely disagree.

Information sources: Internet overtakes television for the first time

For the first time in the surveys conducted as part of the Science Barometer, the Internet is the source of information that most respondents (40%) use often or very often to inform themselves about science and research. 37 per cent make corresponding statements for television. In 2018, television was still the most important source of information with 37 per cent (internet 2018: 35%).

With regard to the internet as an information source, websites of news media remain the most frequently used online sources with 48 per cent of the respondents using them often or very often to find out about science and research (2018: 41%, 2020: 57%). Since 2018, YouTube and other video platforms, in particular, have become more relevant (2018: 23%, 2021: 33%), as have podcasts (2018: 6%, 2021: 16%).

The results at a glance

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Individual graphics in JPG format

The use of the results is possible if the source Wissenschaft im Dialog/Kantar is mentioned. The graphics are licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0, adaptations of the format for editorial publications are permitted. 

Trust in science and other actors

Science and Corona

Science and society

Interest and information patterns

Results from the previous years

The results of the Science Barometer "Corona Special" as well as the Science Barometers 2014-2020 can be found in the overview on the project page.

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