It was a struggle to educate parents that vaccines were safe and necessary when they instead believed in supplements, organic food, and solar power.
The movement is still raging, and had many of the same figureheads, Democratic party icons like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. are now slightly more marginalized because his fringe anti-vaccine claims have become embraced by some Republicans but his anti-science rhetoric still resonates with the left on issues like hydroelectric power, natural gas, agriculture, and cell phones. Environmental groups with $3 billion in annual revenue that have always sided with him even as his own family now recognizes that he was always off-kilter continue to do so.
How to reach his followers so his messaging about conventional food and energy won't continue to be embraced by journalists and then made into policy that harms the poor is the goal of a new experiment in Germany (https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12670 and https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12665) which tested techniques when it came to COVID-19 vaccines and genetically modified foods. Participants stated how much trust they had in science, in researchers at universities, and at health care companies. They also rated the 'usefulness' of vaccinations and genetically modified organisms, with no information shown about how prevalent and safe they are.
The test was pn the effects of the headlines and structures of the submitted texts. The social science scholars used two models touted by communications academics: a three-part "truth sandwich" structure, true information and arguments frame the false statement to be refuted; a two-part "bottom-heavy" structure where the false statement is followed by its refutation.
The good news is that among all respondents, acceptance of information that portrayed COVID-19 vaccines and genetically modified foods as safe went up, though the relation to the structure of the refutation didn't matter. This leads the authors to conclude that being congenial rather than abrasive is best.
It's a common trope by academics and scientists who've had 300,000,000 fewer readers than we've had, and commonly wrong.
In California, it was only confrontation that stopped progressives on the coast from being more successful in spreading fear and doubt about vaccines. Scientists who speak with too many qualifiers - 'the risk is small' - fail when passionate people talk about how their children are too important for scientists who are not sure to experiment on. And scientists and those in science media are quick to turn on anyone who doesn't mirror their own style and substance, while the anti-science side has lists of reliable academics and journalists and they don't care what style those use to promote the message.
Some people will never be reached
When is the last time you changed your mind? If you distrust government to such an extent you believed aliens are hidden in secret facilities or that chemical companies control FDA and harmful pesticides (unless they are made by organic industry corporations) are being pushed off on the public, you have distrust of science that no amount of outreach will ever change.
When we wanted to end the loggerhead of Democrats in government who sympathized with anti-vaccine proponents, including the current Governor, we knew it was pointless to try and convince everyone who believed natural immunity was enough. We didn't expend resources treating all equally, we focused on those who had reasonable concerns and questions. They could change their minds.
People with strong distrust of science - e.g. they think ionizing radiation is the same as cell phones or that plants are tiny green people so a chemical that acts on biology only found in plants can give humans cancer - didn't move much at all with their thinking. As we see in today's polarized climate, people with beliefs about science are more willing than ever to boycott Thanksgiving, and beliefs about vaccines are only more noticeable because in the past the right wing only regarded that anti-vax aunt as a misguided hippie, while the left will go full Handmaiden's Tale on anyone who doesn't show a card with multiple COVID-19 vaccine shots.
The good news is you are are academic with 500 followers on Twitter is that some respondents felt better if the source was a university. Those with less trust know that academic science is almost entirely by government panels stuffed with appointees who may or may not have advancing science as their goal. A chief proponent of the mRNA technology that led to the COVID-19 toiled in obscurity because government panels didn't think it was worthwhile.
- COVID-19: It Increased Trust In Science Among Germans And Lowered It Among Americans
- Gallop: Both Republicans And Democrats Are Wildly Overstating Risks From COVID-19
- What Do CT, MA, NY And California Share In Common? Voting And Anti-Vaccine Beliefs
- Should Academic Freedom Be A Free Pass For Anything?
- This Christmas, Help Us Debunk The Holiday Suicide Myth