Trust in Fauci and the CDC Falls as Partisan Gap Widens

Fear, misinformation and the widening political divide over science and expertise threaten our democracy, experts say

Robert Roy Britt
5 min readSep 11, 2020

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Misinformation, fear, and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus are conspiring to deepen the partisan divide in America and further sow distrust in government and expert advice from scientists and health officials, new polling reveals. The growing political gap, deepening general distrust, and ever-more outrageous claims by the White House threaten the very foundations of democracy, a growing chorus of experts worry.

Just 67% of Americans say they trust the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a great deal or a fair amount, down from 83% in April. Trust in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, fell from 78% to 68%.

The partisan divide increased during that time, the new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows. Trust in the CDC is now 74% among Democrats and just 60% for Republicans. Fauci’s trust level is 86% among Democrats and 48% with Republicans. Independents fall near the middle on both measures.

Politics over science

The CDC and the Food & Drug Administration have been roiled in recent weeks by internal missteps and accusations by scientists of bowing to political pressure from the White House.

In the new poll, 39% say the FDA pays too much attention to politics, and 42% say that about the CDC. Democrats were significantly more inclined to say so on both accounts. Meanwhile, some 85% of Democrats and 35% of Republicans worry that political pressure from President Donald Trump will cause the FDA to rush a coronavirus vaccine before it’s safe. (FDA leader Dr. Stephen Hahn has said that won’t happen.)

Misinformation and conspiracy theories are driving much of the distrust, just as many experts have feared would be the case. Among the Covid-19 myths and conspiracy theories that scientists have debunked: it was made in a lab on purpose as a bioweapon; the pandemic has been fabricated to weaken Trump’s presidency; Bill Gates is behind it all to boost vaccine sales.

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Robert Roy Britt

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB