In this perspectives brief, authors Lawrence Hamilton and Thomas Safford discuss the importance of government and public respect for scientific advice in mitigating the impacts of COVID-19. Striking political divisions in attitudes toward science have recently been evident in U.S. government statements and actions regarding the pandemic, and in opinions or behavior reported by general-public surveys. Although the COVID-19 crisis is breaking news, these political divisions in respect for science during a pandemic have deeper roots. A nationwide survey conducted by Carsey School researchers in 2016, immediately after the elections, found 25-point gaps between Trump and Clinton voters, or between conservatives and liberals, regarding whether they trusted science agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for information about the Zika virus pandemic. Since 2016 the government took concrete steps such as eliminating a National Security Council team responsible for pandemic preparedness, and cutting budgets for disease-security programs, that are having profound impacts on the United States’ ability to deal with COVID-19 today.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Winter 3-18-2020


Perspectives Brief


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



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