Summary of key findings
During late 2020, when coronavirus cases were surging in several regions around the world, the Wellcome Global Monitor surveyed more than 119,000 members of the public in 113 countries and territories. It asked about the impact of the pandemic on their lives, whether they supported their government’s participation in global efforts to prevent future diseases, and how they viewed their government’s handling of scientific advice around Covid-19.
The pandemic had a big impact on people’s lives – nearly half of people globally said it had affected their lives ‘a lot’.
- Eighty per cent of adults worldwide said that the coronavirus had affected their lives to some extent, with nearly half (45%) saying it had affected their lives ‘a lot’ and a third (35%) saying it had affected their lives ‘some’. Fewer than one in five (19%) said it had not affected their lives at all.
- Globally, one in three people who had jobs at the beginning of the pandemic (33%) said they had lost their job or business because of the coronavirus situation, while about half said they had to stop working temporarily (53%), worked fewer hours (50%) or received less pay (53%) because of Covid-19A.
The impact of Covid-19 has been uneven across the world.
- Forty-five per cent of people in low/lower-middle- income countries lost a job/business due to Covid-19 compared to just 10% in high-income countries.
- Worldwide, around four in ten workers in the bottom two income quintiles in their country said they had lost a job or business due to Covid-19, compared to a little over two in ten (23%) among those in the top fifth income quintile.
Globally, people were more likely to express a high degree of trust in science and scientists in 2020 than they were in 2018: there was a 10-percentage-point increase in people saying they trust science in general ‘a lot’, while the percentage who said they trust scientists in their country ‘a lot’ rose nine percentage points.
- The percentage who said they trust both science and scientists ‘a lot’ rose by at least 10 percentage points in three regions: East Asia (predominantly China), Latin America and Eastern Europe — regions where this proportion was relatively low in 2018. However, this percentage either did not rise or declined in two other regions where it had also been low in 2018: the Russia/Caucasus/Central Asia region and Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Trust in science rose most substantially between 2018 and 2020 among those who said they have ‘some’ knowledge of science (39% in 2018 to 48% in 2020) and those that knew ‘not much’ or ‘nothing at all’ about science (25% in 2018 to 33% in 2020). Among people who said they know ‘a lot’ about science, trust rose only marginally, although the starting point was at a higher level, rising from 66% in 2018 to 69% in 2020.
Perceived knowledge of science and confidence in government influences trust in science.
- As highlighted in the first Wave of the Wellcome Global Monitor, public trust in science and scientists is influenced by a range of factors at individual and country levels. One of the largest of these is the effect of science education, and another is how much people think they know about science. In 2020, 63% of people who said they know a lot about science said that they have ‘a lot’ of trust in scientists compared to 37% of those who said ‘not much’ or ‘nothing at all’ about how much they knew about science. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that in 2020 trust in scientists rose, possibly as a result of Covid-19 moving the public closer than ever to the work of scientists fighting against the pandemic.
- However, a rise in trust has not been evident everywhere, and, as in 2018, there are large regional variations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where trust in science went down between 2018 and 2020, only 19% expressed a high level of trust in scientists, the lowest level in the world. This can be contrasted with 62% in Australia/New Zealand, where trust was highest. Another significant factor affecting trust is how the public felt about their national leadership, challenging the idea that science exists outside of a political context; in 2020, people who had confidence in their national government were 13 percentage points more likely to trust scientists in their country ‘a lot’ compared to people who did not have confidence in their national government (44% vs 33%)B.
Doctors and nurses are most likely to be seen as basing coronavirus-related decisions on scientific advice ‘a lot’ compared to WHO or people’s national governments.
- Worldwide, more than six in ten people (63%) said doctors and nurses base decisions about coronavirus on scientific advice ‘a lot’. This figure fell below 50% for the other four sources in the survey: the World Health Organization (48%), people’s national government (41%), their friends and family (38%) and religious leaders (23%). However, more than 70% felt that each source – except religious leaders – bases these decisions at least somewhat on scientific advice.
- People in Australia/New Zealand were the most likely compared to those in other regions to say that all five potential sources of advice base their decisions on scientific advice ‘a lot’, while those in Russia/Caucasus/Central Asia were the least likely to respond in this way.
Globally, only a quarter of the public said that their government values the opinions and expertise of scientists ‘a lot’.
- One in four people (25%) worldwide said leaders in their national government place ‘a lot’ of value on the opinions and expertise of scientists, though an additional 35% said government leaders place ‘some’ value on them. Nearly three in ten (28%) felt their government does not place much or any value on scientists’ opinions.
- In 25 of the 113 countries surveyed, including eight in Eastern Europe and six in Latin America, people were significantly more likely to say their government leaders place little or no value on scientists’ opinions than to say leaders place ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ of value on them.
- Across all 113 countries and territories included in 2020, only a minority said leaders in their government value the opinions and expertise of scientists ‘a lot’.
- People’s belief that their government values the opinions and expertise of scientists was most prevalent where overall confidence in government was highest.
The majority of people worldwide agree (‘strongly’/’somewhat’) that their government should spend money to help countries prevent and cure diseases wherever they occur. In what seems to be a contradictory result, the majority also agree that their government should spend money on prevention and cures only if their own people are at risk.
- Two-fifths (42%) globally strongly agree that their government should spend money to help countries prevent and cure diseases wherever they occur, and half (51%) also strongly agree that their government should spend money on preventing and curing diseases only if they pose a risk to the people in their country.
- There are large regional disparities in views about this. Most South Asian people agree with both statements, while people in East Asia and Northern America are more inclined to agree that their government should spend money to help countries prevent and cure diseases everywhere. Those living in South East Asia and Russia/ Caucasus/Central Asia are the most likely to agree that their government should spend money to prevent and cure diseases only if they pose a risk to their own people.
A. These figures on the economic impact of Covid-19 exclude respondents who said ‘Does not apply/No job.’
B. Please note this finding is taken from the Gallup World Poll and is not reported on in the main report.