Go to more links in this section

News Release

Public trust in science news is dangerously low, new Ontario Science Centre study reveals

Highlights

  • 79% of Canadians are concerned “fake news” is damaging the public perception of science
  • 82% of Canadians want to know more about science and how it affects our world
  • 33% of Canadians consider themselves science illiterate
  • 43% of Canadians believe that science is a matter of opinion

TORONTO (September 18, 2017) – Canadians are hungry to learn about new science, but their trust in science news has declined to alarming levels, according to the Ontario Science Centre’s second annual science literacy survey. While Canadians understand the basics and have a desire to deepen their knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes, their mistrust in the way science is covered in the news has serious implications for society.

“This breakdown in trust has serious consequences for Canada because our future health, prosperity and security all depend on making important, sometimes difficult, decisions based on scientific findings,” said Dr. Maurice Bitran, CEO and Chief Science Officer, Ontario Science Centre.  “If we don’t trust the sources or don’t understand the information we are receiving, we can’t make informed decisions. The findings of this 2017 survey demonstrate a vital role for authentic scientific voices in public education on critical issues that affect public policy and human health and wellbeing.”

Conducted by Leger online between August 15th to 16th, 2017, and released during Science Literacy Week, the survey asked Canadians about their science literacy and where they obtain reliable scientific information.

Climate of mistrust and misinformation: 79% of Canadians are concerned that “fake news” is damaging public perception of science

Over the past year there has been a great deal of discussion of “fake news” – and it’s clear that Canadians are worried about the impact it will have on their understanding of science.

The survey found that eight in ten Canadians (79%) said they are concerned that “fake news” is damaging public perception of science. Further, nearly one in three Canadians (31%) don’t understand, believe in, or trust science reported in the news.

There is also concern that news media may lack the credibility to communicate scientific issues, with nearly seven in ten Canadians (68%) believing that science is reported selectively to support news media objectives and six in ten Canadians (59%) believing that science coverage is presented to support political positions.

Concern about Canadian science literacy: 33% of Canadians consider themselves science illiterate

Most Canadians feel they are capable of understanding scientific findings; but one in three consider themselves science illiterate (33%) and feel they don’t have the ability to follow science reports in the media (30%). Four in ten Canadians (43%) believe science is a matter of opinion, while three in four Canadians (75%) believe scientific findings can be used to support any position.

At a time when society needs to address urgent challenges through solutions rooted in science, these numbers raise concerns about Canadians’ ability to engage meaningfully with the issues. Alarmingly, nearly half of Canadians (47%) believe the science behind global warming is unclear – up from 40% in 2016. Also cause for concern: belief in vaccinations linking to autism, a connection that has been discredited by the scientific community, is highest among millennials (24%).

Science education the antidote: 89% of Canadians trust science centres and museums for science-related information

So who do Canadians trust? Our schools, science centres and scientists. As trusted sources when it comes to explaining science, they could be the antidote to the epidemic of mistrust. Nearly nine out of ten Canadians say they trust science centres and museums (89%), scientists (88%), and educational institutions (87%) for their science-related information; eight in ten believe more funding should be devoted to science research and education (80%).

Appetite for knowledge: 82% of Canadians want to learn more

The good news is that Canadians want to learn more. Eight in ten Canadians (82%) want to know more about science and how it affects our world.

“In today’s climate, science centres play an important role as places to learn about, and discuss science; they help visitors make sense of the world around them,” said Bitran.  “At the Ontario Science Centre, we provide a trusted, relevant, modern voice on scientific issues, offering real-world application of, and experience with, science.”

About the survey

The Ontario Science Centre survey was completed using Leger’s online panel, Leger Web, with a representative sample of 1,514 Canadians. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of ± 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

  • For general information about the Ontario Science Centre please see the Visit Us section of the webpage and for contact information please refer to our Contact Us page or
    phone: 416-696-1000.

    Media Contact:

    Anna Relyea

    Anna Relyea
    Director, Strategic Communications
    Email:
    Phone: 416-696-3273
    Mobile: 416-668-1967
    Fax: 416-696-3161

    Mail:
    Communications Department
    Ontario Science Centre
    770 Don Mills Road
    Toronto ON M3C 1T3

    More Media Contacts...