Half of Austria’s population does not believe that science in this country operates independently of political and economic influence. This is the result of a study conducted by the Danube University Krems and the University of Graz. Also, 43% believe that health policy decisions are not made on the basis of scientific knowledge.
In March, nearly 2,600 people aged 14 or older were interviewed online for the study. Interestingly, confidence in flag independence was highest among the youngest (up to 24 years of age) and the oldest (above 65 years of age), while it decreased in the middle age groups.
Study author Christina Heinzel, co-chair of the Austrian Democracy Lab project at the University of Continuing Education in Krems and the University of Graz, called the findings “of questionable value”: “If half of the people say the scientific findings are not independent, that’s all as a result, of course, There is also a social perspective that needs to be looked at more closely.”
There are clear differences according to party preferences: while about three-quarters of supporters of the ruling ÖVP and Greens believe in the independent performance of the flag, this accounts for only two-thirds of SPÖ and NEOS sympathizers, only 28 percent of FPÖ voters, and less than 20 percent of the movement’s supporters.
Doubts about health policy decisions
And the population’s confidence in health policy decisions that are made on the basis of evidence is not excessively high. Only 57 percent believe work in this field is based on scientific decisions. Here, too, there was a similar picture in terms of party preference: three-quarters of ÖVP and Green voters were convinced based on the evidence, two-thirds of SPÖ and NEOS supporters, and FPÖ and MFG sympathizers only 42 and 31 percent, respectively.
After all, three-quarters of those questioned documented the findings of science in the health sector and medical studies. “But a quarter are skeptical,” said study co-author Patricia Oberluguer. In an international comparison, that’s a relatively high percentage of skeptics. There are differences depending on educational background. While nearly 90 percent of academics trusted scientific results, only two-thirds did among those for whom compulsory school was their highest qualification.
There was bad evidence for decisions politicians made during the pandemic: only 39% thought they were understandable—the youngest (up to 24 years old) rated them as positive at 55%, and the most negative at 45-64. (34 percent).
Trust in doctors is very high: 81 percent consider them trustworthy – among ÖVP, SPÖ, Green and NEOS voters it is more than 90 percent each, and vice versa for FPÖ voters, this is only the case for 56 percent and 45 percent only for MFG voters. Accordingly, Heinzel’s advice: “If future actions and communication tasks arise in the health sector, the involvement of clinicians should certainly be attempted.” (Abba)
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