Bulgarians Increase their Mistrust of Scientists, Media and Non-governmental Organizations

Novinite Insider » OPINIONS | June 23, 2019, Sunday // 11:43
Bulgaria: Bulgarians Increase their Mistrust of Scientists, Media and Non-governmental Organizations

Do you understand the following statement: "When we talk about "science", we mean the knowledge of the world that we gather through observation and experimentation. When we say "scientists", we mean people studying things like planet Earth, nature, and medicine"?

If you understand the meaning of "science" and "scientists", then you are among the 37% of Bulgarians who responded with "I understood it completely" in the global survey of the US Gallup agency presented during the week.

But another 23% of Bulgarians said "I understood part of the claim", another quarter (25%) chose the "I did not know much" answer from the just-read. More than one out of ten (11%) frankly admit "I did not understand".

"Dnevnik" reported the World Study of Wellcome Global Monitor, which made the Gallup poll in over 140 countries among more than 140,000 people. It was held between April and December last year with 30 questions. When presenting the first conclusions, the emphasis is on trust in vaccines.

But in fact, questions cover a wider range - whether respondents understand what science is, and that vaccines are part of science, trust the research of scientists, doctors, healthcare institutions, government and the media that should disseminate clear information about the situation, including health and vaccination, as well as the decisions of the authorities and the motives behind them.

The responses of more than 1,000 people surveyed in Bulgaria show that Bulgarians doubt almost everything and accept many things "on trust", not according to the way science works - with proven facts and lessons learned from mistakes after doing tests according to a specific method.

Many do not even seem to understand what science is, a startlingly high proportion of people say they have never been educated in science and say they have not been interested in anything in the last month before the poll.

Asked "How much did you know about science?", 5% responded with "a lot", 35% - with "somewhat", 37% - with "not much" and 20% with "nothing".

Every fifth (20%) says he has not been taught about science while he was in high school, likewise answering every fourth (26%) for elementary school. For college or college graduates, this share reaches 31% and only "yes" accounts for only 27%, but here at Gallup they indicated that 40% of the respondents were never students.

The sociologists have also checked the Bulgarians' curiosity about science and medicine by asking whether they were interested in anything about scientific discoveries or medicine and illnesses during the last 30 days prior to the survey. Over two-thirds (67%) respond with "no" to scientific news and about (60%) for health.

Then followed the question "Do you personally want to know more about science, medicine, illness or health?". Nearly half of them have no interest - 37% responded with "no" (and 9% with "do not know) about science, and 33% with" no "(and 6% with" do not know%) about health and medicine.

Then the poll begins to check who the Bulgarians trust.

There is not surprisingly low trust in the government. Over a third (36%) say they have no confidence in the government. More than half doubt their actions and words - 29% responded with "not much" and 26% with "some" confidence. Only 6% or roughly one in 20 respondents responds with "much" confidence.

For Bulgarians the neighbors and the people in the neighborhood are more trusted, but more than one fifth of them are responding negatively (6% - with "no trust" and 16% with "I do not believe them much"). Every fourth (23%) fully trusts, and over half (53%) "to some extent".

Very low is the trust in civil structures outside those of power, which in every society are a measure of the ability of people to organize themselves for the protection of rights, interests and causes. Less than a quarter (24%) believe non-governmental organizations and non-profit organizations, do not earn from their activities. Half (49%) do not trust them and another 26% say they do not know the answer to this question.

It is not clear from the questionnaire whether these NGO responses include Bulgarians who have never been in contact with such organizations in their lives. But the question of whether they trust the people working in them, however, 37% say they have "a lot of" or "some" trust. This is less than the mistrust - 30% say "not much", 15% have no confidence, and almost every fifth (18%) have no answer.

Gallup also checks the extent to which Bulgarians trust journalists - those who, in principle, should disseminate mass information and verified facts and allegations, as well as create an environment for debate and rebuttal of lies, delusions, prejudices and populism. With "I have a lot of confidence" they only meet 6% and "trust" - 40%. But in what they write, say and show, the media doubts every third (34% have chosen "not much" trust) and do not believe 14%.

As the focus of the first publicized part of the study is on health, sociologists ask and to whom Bulgarians most trust for health councils. 70% tranquilizers respond to a "doctor or nurse". One fifth (20%) believe more of what their relatives and friends say. 1% said "religious leader" or "traditional healer", and 4% say "none of the ones listed so far", meaning that 6% of Bulgarians entrust their own health and their children to sources that strictly speaking are unscientific.

When asked how much trust they have in science, 21% respond with "big" and 52% with "some" but one quarter are in the group of mistrust (11% "not too", 3% "none" and 12% some "). One third (31%) is the group of doubters that scientists are finding accurate information about the world around us (15% do not believe them, 4% do not believe them, and 12% say they do not know the answer to this question) . Many trust state 6% and "some" trust - 52%.

Regularly around one third are doubtful or disbelieving in answering questions such as "Do you think scientists in your country are working for the public good?" (35%), "Do you believe that scientists in Bulgarian companies work for the benefit of society?" (44%), "Are scientists in institutes and companies honest about who pays their salaries?" (55% and 44%).

Almost all (98%) of the Bulgarian respondents indicated that they were followers of religion (without specifying which). Asked whether science had gone from the teachings of their religion, 24% answered yes, 45% with no, and 30% say "do not know". To the question "When science and your religion are different, which one do you believe?" half of respondents choose science. But 17% say they will follow the religious doctrine, 27% choose the answer "depends" and 6% do not know.

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