WebMD News Brief

Public Trust in Top Health Officials is Fading

photo of coronavirus task force, fauci speaking

September 15, 2020 -- Fewer Americans trust top U.S. health officials — such as the CDC and Anthony Fauci MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — than earlier in the pandemic, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Public skepticism about the FDA and the process of approving a vaccine is eroding public confidence,” Drew Altman, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement.

Overall, the CDC and Fauci are still among the most trusted sources of information, although Republicans have reported a steep drop in trust since April. About 68% of adults said they trust Fauci “a great deal” or “a fair amount,” and 67% said they trust the CDC to provide reliable information on the coronavirus. About half trust Deborah Birx MD, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and 40% trust President Donald Trump.

The differences tend to break down on partisan lines. About 86% of Democrats trust Fauci, as compared with 48% of Republicans. About 86% of Republicans trust Trump’s information about the coronavirus, as compared with 8% of Democrats.

The poll was conducted Aug. 28 to Sept. 3.

Since April, the overall trust of the CDC has dropped by 16 percentage points, and the trust of Fauci has dropped by 10 percentage points. The largest decline was seen among Republicans. About 90% expressed trust in the CDC in April, which has fallen by 30 percentage points. Republicans’ trust in Fauci fell by 29 percentage points, while the percentage of Democrats who trust Fauci has increased from 80% to 86% since April.

The poll also found that about half of Americans believe at least one misconception about coronavirus prevention and treatment. About 1 in 5 say that wearing a face mask is harmful to your health, and 1 in 4 say hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19. About 75% of Republicans expressed at least one misconception, as compared with 25% of Democrats and 46% of independents. About 7% of people said there’s a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus that the FDA has approved.

“Politicizing basic facts like whether a mask can prevent coronavirus’ spread creates an environment where misinformation is easily shared and believed,” Mollyann Brodie, executive director of the foundation’s public opinion and survey research, said in the statement.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 15, 2020

Sources

Kaiser Family Foundation, “KFF Health Tracking Poll – September 2020: Top Issues in 2020 Election, The Role of Misinformation, and Views on A Potential Coronavirus Vaccine.”

Kaiser Family Foundation, “Poll: Most Americans Worry Political Pressure Will Lead to Premature Approval of a COVID-19 Vaccine; Half Say They Would Not Get a Free Vaccine Approved Before Election Day.”

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