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UNH Poll: COVID-19 Pandemic Hasn't Changed N.H.'s Views On Science, Government

UNH Carsey School

A recent poll says New Hampshire residents' trust in science and government advice hasn't changed much, even as the coronavirus spreads.

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center polled about 1,800 residents in March and April.

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In both months, a similar set of people – around 70 or 80 percent – said they trusted advice from science agencies like the Centers for Disease Control on the pandemic, and were making big changes to their routines as a result. Fewer than half said they trusted the government to handle the crisis effectively.

The more people trusted the government's response, the less likely they were to change their routines. Trust in scientists had the opposite effect.

In a brief on the poll results for the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy, researcher Larry Hamilton says these numbers may not have changed much from March to April – even amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and economic restrictions – because people’s views on science are closely tied to political ideology.

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He says conservatives, for example, are more likely to trust the government's response and less likely to believe scientists or change their routines. Hamilton says it may have a greater effect to know someone with the virus.

"Maybe they don't believe scientists, maybe they're not empathetic to people far away and not like them,” he says. “But once it does happen in their family and their circles, I think that will change some minds."

He says similar divisions are found on issues like climate change and vaccines.

Do you have questions about coronavirus? Ask them here.

This story has been updated to reflect that the UNH Survey Center conducted the original poll.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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