Almost half of Canadians – 43 per cent – believe scientific findings are ‘a matter of opinion,’ a poll released Monday shows.
At the same time, 81 per cent said that scientific findings were ‘objective facts,’ which means that over a third of the poll’s respondents, 38 per cent, believe both.
Those who described themselves as ‘intuitive/gut feel decision-makers’ were more likely to see science as a matter of opinion, while people who said they were ‘analytical’ were more likely to see it as fact. Older Canadians were more likely to see science as a matter of opinion.
The poll, by Leger, also showed that Canadians fear that fake science news will harm public knowledge of science.
Majorities feared that “false information reported as fact” would affect their knowledge of the world (68 per cent) and affect their knowledge of science (66 per cent). And 79 per cent feared that fake news “will have a negative impact on public perception of scientific inquiry and discovery.”
The murkier corners of the Internet abound in fake reports in some way related to science. In the past few months, readers of dubious sites have been told that Hurricane Irma was sucking sharks into the air and depositing them inland, that an “astronomical event between Jupiter and Venus” would cause two weeks or darkness in November, and that women absorb and retain DNA from every man they have sex with.
WATCH: Outspoken science education advocate and former TV host Bill Nye has written a new book, “Everything All At Once: How To Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap Into Radical Curiosity And Solve Any Problem.”
The poll also showed Canadians divided about global warming, with roughly equal numbers agreeing or disagreeing with the statement that “the science behind global warming is still unclear.”
And 19 per cent said they thought there was a link between vaccinations and autism, roughly in line with earlier polls.
Canadians have clear views about where to get reliable scientific information. In declining order of trust:
- Museums and science centres (89 per cent)
- Scientists (88 per cent)
- Educational institutions (87 per cent)
- Friends and family (80 per cent)
- Journalists (57 per cent)
- Government (43 per cent)
- Comedians (29 per cent)
- Religious leaders (25 per cent)
- Bloggers and social media influencers (18 per cent)
- Celebrities (9 per cent)
Several prominent celebrities have argued against vaccinating children.
Although reporters were more trusted than government to present scientific information, 68 per cent felt science reporting was “reported selectively to support news media objectives,” and 46 per cent said it was “too shallow to be useful.”
The online poll surveyed 1,514 people on August 15 and 16. Leger states its margin of error as plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
WATCH: Pope Francis told reporters Sunday that climate change should be taken seriously and deniers should heed warnings from scientists.