Are science communication audiences becoming more critical? Reconstructing migration between audience segments based on Swiss panel data

Abstract

Over the past years, pundits, journalists, and others have diagnosed fundamental shifts in the public’s perception of science. Many of them have posited that audiences are becoming more critical toward science or that people trust science less. However, systematic empirical analyses of such assertions are lacking. Based on panel survey data (N = 339) and segmentation analysis, we investigate migration between four segments of the Swiss population over 3 years. We find that 45% of participants changed their attitude between 2016 and 2019 to such an extent that they got assigned to a more positive or more critical audience segment. The majority of them migrated to more critical segments, which is in line with assumptions of fundamental shifts in the public’s perception of science.

Publication
In Public Understanding of Science. Advance online publication.
Sankey diagram visualizing migration between audience segments.

Sankey diagram visualizing migration between audience segments.

Niels G. Mede
Niels G. Mede
Science Communication Researcher and PhD Student

I am a Research and Teaching Assistant at the Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ), University of Zurich, Switzerland. My research focuses on public opinion about science, populism and its implications for science and science communication, and survey methodology. From March to May 2022, I am a visiting scholar at the Department of Life Sciences Communication of the University of Wisconsin—Madison.