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Poll: Public Lost Trust in CDC During COVID-19 Crisis

WEDNESDAY, April 7, 2021 -- Americans' trust in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, an opinion poll finds.

Researchers from the RAND Corporation, the nonprofit research group based in Santa Monica, California, polled more than 2,000 Americans in May 2020 and questioned most again five months later. Respondents were asked to rate their trust of the CDC, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a low-to-high scale of 0 to 10. During the survey period, trust in the CDC dropped about 10 percent -- from 7.6 points on the 10-point scale in May to 7.0 in October 2020. Meanwhile, trust in the postal service rose from 6.9 to 7.7 and trust in FEMA rose from 6.4 to 6.7, even though both had challenges of their own during the study period.

Trust in the CDC declined sharply among White and Hispanic respondents, but changes among Black respondents and those who listed "other" as their race were not statistically significant, the RAND researchers found. Long-standing distrust in the CDC and other health institutions among Black Americans is believed to stem from a history of racism in the nation's health system.

Declines in trust were especially high among people who said they intended to vote for a candidate other than Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election or that they did not intend to vote at all. The researchers said that suggests views about the CDC are now strongly politicized. The investigators did not find similar politicization for FEMA or the USPS.

The researchers suggested that one way for the CDC to rebuild trust and depoliticize opinions about the agency is to ensure that the public understands the scientific basis for policy changes and guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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