World survey reveals people trust experts but want to know more about science

The Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 shows high overall global trust in doctors, nurses and scientists, and confidence in vaccines.

Women working at the Sanitary Pad Unit on the Amgoorie Tea Estate in Assam

It also shows that half the world’s population say they know little, if anything, about science. And almost one in five feels excluded from the benefits of science.

The survey asked more than 140,000 people aged 15 and older, in over 140 countries, how they think and feel about health and science. 

For many countries – including Colombia, Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam – the survey offers the first insights into what people think about these issues. 

This first-of-a-kind global survey clearly shows that people’s beliefs about science are deeply influenced by their culture, context, and background. We need to care more about these connections if we want everyone to benefit from science.
Imran Khan, Head of Public Engagement, Wellcome

The study was conducted as part of the Gallup World Poll 2018. 

The results from the first Wellcome Global Monitor will provide a baseline of evidence to assess how attitudes change over time. They will also help inform policies to improve public engagement with science and health. The survey will be re-run in the future.

Key findings

  • Three-quarters of the world’s population trust doctors and nurses more than anyone else for health advice.
  • Globally, around eight in 10 people agree vaccines are safe, and nine in 10 people worldwide say their children have been vaccinated.
  • People living in high-income countries have the lowest confidence in vaccines.
  • In most parts of the world, higher confidence in health systems, governments and scientists is a sign of high trust in vaccines – but the picture is more complicated in Europe.
  • In almost every region of the world men are significantly more likely to say they have a good level of understanding of science compared with women.