Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's Most Trusted Expert
Americans are widely believed to be wary of experts. With good reason. Even in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville noted American skepticism of eggheads and intellectuals in his justly famous Democracy in America.
However, there comes a time when actual, real, professional knowledge commands both attention and respect. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of those times, and the most trusted American right now is Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a position he was appointed to in 1984.
In a survey of 1,900 registered U.S. voters last weekend, Morning Consult asked respondents whom they would trust either a “lot” or “some” if the issue were to end social distancing. Dr. Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) topped the list among all voters with 71% trust ratings.
State governors were the next most highly rated, with a score of 59% among all voters. The World Health Organization (WHO) and local news media posted trust scores of 52% and 50%. U.S. President Donald Trump received an approval rating of 38% among all voters, with 75% of Republicans saying they have a lot or some trust in him, along with 8% of Democrats.
Dr. Fauci scored 70% among Republican voters, second only to Trump among that group. Republican members of Congress scored 62% and Fox News scored 51% among Republican voters. More than half (58%) of Democratic voters trusted congressional Democrats, while CNN and MSNBC received 48% and 44% trust ratings, respectively.
According to Morning Consult, just 11% of all registered voters think their state’s governor is doing too much to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, while 56% say governors are doing the right amount and 23% think state governors should do more. Less than half think the Trump administration (37%) or Congress (27%) are doing enough in response to the pandemic.
Among Americans 65 years old and older, Trump’s net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) has dropped from a 19 on March 16 to −1 on April 19. His approval rating among all adults on March 16 was 5, while it had dipped to 3 by April 19. The president’s rating among older Americans has suffered from his increasing focus on the economy and his failure to prioritize stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Concerns about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak have risen among all voters, from 29% on March 29 to 35%. Among Republican voters, concerns over the economic impact of the outbreak have risen from 29% to 50%, while among Democrats concerns have increased from 19% to 20%.
Nearly a quarter of Republicans believe Americans should stop social distancing in order to restart the economy, even if it means spreading COVID-19 more widely. Just 4% of Democrats agree with that approach.
Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, compared American’s wariness of professional expertise today with earlier skepticism: “What is qualitatively different today is that ordinary citizens seem increasingly confident in their views, but no more competent than they were 30 or 40 years ago. A significant number of laypeople now believe, for no reason but self-affirmation, that they know better than experts in almost every field.”
Dr. Fauci is the exception.