On coronavirus, Americans still trust the experts

In the Times survey, 84 percent of voters said they trusted medical scientists to provide reliable information about the virus, with 90 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans trusting the experts. Overall trust in the C.D.C. was 77 percent — 71 percent among Republicans and 83 percent among Democrats…

Evidence shows that trust is a good predictor of behavior — people who trust medical experts are more likely to heed their advice. That helps explain the widespread compliance with advice to shut down businesses and stay home, and with other policies devised to prevent the spread of coronavirus this spring.

But research also shows two key factors tend to dilute trust in public health: political polarization and mixed messages. Both are present in this crisis. Sarah Gollust, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota who studies the communication of health policy, worries the current levels of public trust may begin to erode. “The trends started out bad and are remaining bad,” she said.