Legacy media as inhibitors and drivers of public reservations against science: Global survey evidence on the link between media use and anti-science attitudes

Abstract

Public resentment toward scientific institutions, scholars, and their expertise challenges the status of science in society in many countries worldwide. It is thus essential to examine the global prevalence of such resentment—and the potential of legacy media to temper it, thanks to their ability to cultivate positive views of science, educate citizens, and connect publics to scientific discourse. However, existing research has mostly surveyed Western populations, focused on pro-science rather than anti-science views, rarely studied the role of media use, and often ignored country characteristics that may interact with media use. This secondary analysis addresses these caveats, drawing on the 2017–2020 wave of the World Values Survey (N = 70,867 in 49 countries) and three relevant country-level indicators (freedom of the press, populism, uncertainty avoidance). Findings indicate that anti-science attitudes vary substantially across countries and are more prevalent in many Latin American nations. Results of Bayesian multilevel regressions show that frequent use of newspapers, TV, and radio indeed alleviates anti-science attitudes in some countries—but fosters them in others, particularly in those where populist rhetoric is more prevalent in public discourse, potentially because such rhetoric often challenges science and academic expertise. These findings call for further comparative research on global reservations against science and reflections about their repercussions on the science-society nexus.

Publication
In Humanities and Social Sciences Communications. Advance online publication.
Country-level effects of legacy media use on anti-science attitudes.

Country-level effects of legacy media use on anti-science attitudes.

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.