If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


Lost Trust in Healthcare Experts – What Happened?

A Commentary By Brian Joondeph

Trust is foundational in relationships, whether between two individuals or between individuals and institutions.

Gallup survey from last summer found, “Americans’ faith in major societal institutions hasn’t improved over the past year following a slump in public confidence in 2022."

Notable examples where surprisingly few Americans have “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in major institutions include Congress at percent (8%), big business and television news at 14%, and the criminal justice system at only 17%.

The medical system fared slightly better with only 34% of Americans expressing confidence. But two-thirds lost trust.

Doctors, hospitals, and healthcare systems used to be held in high esteem, but no more. Aren’t these the “experts”? What happened to that trust?

Rasmussen Reports recently asked American adults three questions.

  1. On health-related issues, how much trust do you have in experts who give advice on TV and other media?
  2. In terms of your own health-care decisions, which is closer to your attitude, that it's safe to trust advice from experts, or that it's important to do your own research?
  3. Thinking back on the COVID-19 pandemic, were most of the experts basically right or wrong?

Not surprisingly, trust is low. What is interesting is the partisan divide, with Democrats far more trusting in medical instructions than Republicans.

In terms of one’s own healthcare decisions, “35% of American adults believe it's safe to trust advice from experts” By party however, only 22% of Republicans trust the experts compared to 52% of Democrats.

What about TV experts like Dr. Anthony (“I am the science”) Fauci? A majority (53%) of Americans have “not very much or no trust” in medical media experts. By party, 63% of Democrats compared to only 28% of Republicans have at least some trust in these experts.

When it comes to COVID-19, only 45% of Americans think the experts were “basically right” with 41% believing the experts wrong, an even split. By party, 73% of Democrats think the experts were right about COVID-19, but only 24% of Republicans.

Why such a gap? Several reasons come to mind. Conservative Republicans are generally distrustful of big government and the media. Most media outlets lean left, promoting liberal policies and agendas, at the same time almost uniformly critical of conservative figures and ideas. In fact, a recent

Syracuse University study found that Democrat journalists outnumber Republican journalists by 11-to-1. Simply compare the treatment of Presidents Trump versus Biden, or Bush versus Obama. Medical and healthcare institutions pushing a "woke" agenda have turned off Republicans. As an example, the diversity chief at Johns Hopkins Medicine, one of the premier medical institutions in the world, sent an email to staff bemoaning the “privilege” of white, middle class, heterosexual, English speaking, Christian males.

It's not surprising that since more Republicans than Democrats fall into at least one of these prejudicial categories, their trust of such institutions would be lower. During COVID-19, it was primarily finger-wagging leftists in the media and out in public that were nagging anyone not wearing at least one mask. They were also pushing an endless series of poorly tested vaccines which now may be causing more harm than good.

These scolds were called “Karens." The Hill described them as follows, “The party of ‘Karens’: The new Democratic Party alienates nonwhite voters.” I’ll add conservative and libertarian voters too. From masks and vaccines to climate change and gender identity, Karens think they know it all and make sure to remind everyone of their wisdom.

This is the new Democrat base as The Hill noted, “Single, college-educated white women, who dominated last year’s social media slacktivism and protests.” Like Dr. Fauci, they proclaimed themselves the science, woe be it to anyone disagreeing with them.

Medical institutions embraced these women, gave them a platform, and Republicans quickly tuned them out, not trusting them or the medical institutions backing them.

Lastly the medical system itself squandered trust. They castigated longstanding and safe off-label therapeutics for COVID-19 while promoting minimally tested vaccines that were supposed to stop infection and transmission but did neither.

They mandated children be vaccinated, the one group with a near-zero risk for COVID-19 death. They imposed an arbitrary six-foot distancing rule causing school and business closures. They now ignore myriad young healthy individuals dying suddenly and population based excess mortality far greater than expected.

Those aren’t simply my beliefs. The British Medical Journal published a paper this week concluding:

"During the devastating global COVID-19 pandemic, one nation stood out: the United States saw 'eye wateringly high' death rates compared with its peer nations. The 1.16 million Americans killed by COVID-19 represent 16% of global deaths in a nation with 4% of the world’s population. One in three Americans knows someone who died from COVID-19, about 300 000 children are estimated to have lost one or both parents, and there is a substantial burden of long COVID.

Those in charge did a lousy job, and many of us lost loved ones (me included) due to reactionary or political science rather than medical science. No wonder trust has been lost.

These same medical institutions believe men can become pregnant and genital mutilation surgery is appropriate for confused or mentally ill teenagers. Who trusts such magical thinking?

Republicans relate to Ronald Reagan’s nine most terrifying words in the English language, “I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Democrats, on the other hand, never met a tax, regulation, or government program that they didn’t like.

It’s no wonder Rasmussen Reports found this partisan view of distrust in healthcare institutions. Someday there will be another pandemic or public health emergency and without trust,

America will have a hard time navigating through such a challenge, unless a government jackboot forces compliance or else.

Even liberal tweeter and author Stephen King got it right, “The trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool.”

Brian C. Joondeph, M.D., is a physician and writer.

Follow me on Twitter @retinaldoctor

Substack Dr. Brian’s Substack

Truth Social @BrianJoondeph

LinkedIn @Brian Joondeph

See Other Commentaries by Brian C. Joondeph.

See Other Political Commentaries.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.