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Trust, facts, and democracy in a polarized world

42 minutes

This episode was recorded before COVID-19 changed everything, but many of the themes we discuss about public opinion polling and the importance of trust and facts to a democracy are perhaps more relevant now than ever before.

We talked with Michael Dimock, president of the Pew Research Center, about how the organization approaches polling in a world that increasingly presents competing partisan visions of reality.

Trust in the media and government has been declining for years, if not longer, and may be exacerbated by COVID-19. What’s more concerning for democracy, Pew’s Trust Facts, and Democracy project found, is that our trust in each other is also declining.

People don’t trust their peers to use good judgement when comes to evaluating information or making political decisions — especially when it comes to people from the opposing political party. Polling done as part of Trust, Facts, and Democracy found that about 60% of adults said they have little or no confidence in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making political decisions.

What does that mean for democracy? Dimock doesn’t shy away from talking about the grim realities of our current political climate, but does offer a few glimmers of hope from the Trust, Facts, and Democracy work.

Additional Information

Pew’s Trust Facts and Democracy project

Pew polling on COVID-19

After the Fact podcast from the Pew Charitable Trusts

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s Mood of the Nation Poll

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy is starting a virtual book club! Our first selection will be How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. Join us for online meetings May 20 and 21. Visit democracy.psu.edu/book to learn more and RSVP.

Episode Credits

This episode was recorded on March 10, 2020. It was engineered by Jenna Spinelle, edited by Jen Bortz, and reviewed by Emily Reddy.

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