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Scientists, doctors, or politicians? Report shows who we trust the most after the pandemic

While the position of many professions has barely shifted over the last few years, the pandemic has provided a boost to the trustworthiness of one.

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The perception of how trustworthy doctors are has risen in the past few years, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world, putting them in the spotlight.

Almost two-thirds of respondents to a global survey rated doctors as trustworthy, according to the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Index 2021. Scientists came in second, at 61% and teachers third, at 55%.

At the other end of the scale, 10% said they believe politicians are trustworthy, 14% say the same about government ministers and 15% about advertising executives.

“While many professions’ positions have barely shifted over the last few years, one notable impact during the pandemic has been a boost to the standing of doctors,” Ipsos said. “Many other professions remain at similar levels to those recorded in pre-pandemic waves, including politicians, who have been bottom of the list in all three years.”

The seven percentage point boost for doctors since 2019 pushed them above scientists, whose standing remained fairly steady across the three years to 2021, with around six in 10 people rating them as trustworthy.

Also read: Women have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Here’s how the UN is going to address it

How trust varies between countries

On a country-by-country basis, Great Britain puts the most stock in doctors, with 72% of people surveyed rating them as trustworthy. They are similarly highly trusted by the Dutch and the Canadians.

Perhaps galvanized by the pandemic, many countries show an increase in rankings of doctors – for example in Hungary and Chile, the proportion rating doctors as trustworthy has risen by 19 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. There were also double-digit increases in trust in doctors in Saudi Arabia, Poland, Brazil and Russia.

Levels of distrust

Mexico is the only country to register a fall in the trustworthiness of doctors between 2019 and 2021, the index shows, falling from 71% to 66%.

The Ipsos survey was conducted online between 23 April and 7 May 2021 and included nearly 20,000 adults from 28 countries.

Across the board, government ministers, advertising executives and politicians were deemed to be the least trustworthy, although their standing had improved a little during the pandemic.

Between 2019 and 2021, the proportion who see politicians as untrustworthy fell four points from 66% to 62%, while distrust of government ministers has dropped by five percentage points.

Restoring trust

How to restore trust is a key and growing theme for policymakers. The Ipsos survey comes after the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed what it called “an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust” of institutions and leaders around the world.

That report found falling trust scores in all of the societal leaders it tracks – from government leaders, to chief executives, journalists and religious leaders.

These drops in trust and a backdrop dominated by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, offer a chance to shape a more sustainable, resilient world, according to the World Economic Forum.

“The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine and reset our world,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s founder and Executive Chairman.

This article was originally published in The World Economic Forum.

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