A Third of Canadians Don’t Trust Scientists

Skepticism about science and scientists seems to be on the rise in Canada

 By Jennifer Hughes

Photo: iStock/AlexRaths.


Canadians seem somewhat conflicted when it comes to science and technology. We reported earlier this month the results of a poll showing that most Canadians over the age of 50 believe that technology has a positive impact on society, but a new study suggests that one in three Canadians don’t trust scientists.

According to the Canadian results from a global Ipsos survey of 14,000 people conducted for the 3M company, 32% of those polled are skeptical about science; that number was 25% in 2017. In fact, nearly half (44%) would go so far as to consider scientists “elitists.”

And yet, while it seems that more and more people are skeptical of science, 88% said that they wanted to know more about science, and 90% said that they did trust research results. “People appreciate that science is a necessary thing. There’s an insatiable appetite for science,” the chairman of earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta, Stephen Johnston, told CBC.

The problem may be that some Canadians don’t fully understand how science works or are suspicious of fake news and misinformation. Among those who expressed distrust of science, one-third said they believe that scientists are influenced by the government, the same proportion think scientists are influenced by corporations, and 30% said that they believe science only when it lines up with their personal beliefs.

While the survey’s results were positive in that they show that Canadians are interested in science, they indicate that there’s work to be done when it comes to bridging the gap between scientists and everyone else. Scientists, Johnston said, “have to make an effort to communicate in terms that are understandable.”