Scientists taking partisan stands on the coronavirus: Here comes the political backlash

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Today, although most Americans trust information from physicians and medical scientistspublic trust in the scientific community has become increasingly partisan, and conservatives and Republicans are less likely to hold positive views toward that community. As a counter to this, scientists ran for Congress in record numbers in the 2018 midterm elections, mostly on the Democratic side. Scientists are running again this year.

Mobilized science, however, is not without potential costs. When scientists advocate for their interests in an expressly political way, they risk further polarizing public opinion about research.

This raises an important question: what can be done to combat the politicization of science? One place to start is to further spark Americans’ interest in, and curiosity about, scientific research. Studies find that people who take an interest in science—irrespective of whether they consider themselves to be Democrats, Republicans or independents—are more likely to hold positive views toward the scientific community and support federal funding for scientific research.

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This means that while advocacy could come at a cost of further politicizing Americans’ views toward the scientific community, there are strategies scientists can follow to mitigate that effect. The potential benefits of mobilized science may well be worth it.

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