Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Covidiot News - Trump's Legacy: More Americans Now Think it is Right to Harass and Threaten Public Health Officials and Scientists

May 17 2020 Donald Trump praised protesters who harassed a journalist on Long Island this week at a rally where one man called for the execution of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
US Adults’ Beliefs About Harassing or Threatening Public Health Officials During the COVID-19 Pandemic | Violence | JAMA Network Open | JAMA Network

One of the more enduring and insidious legacies of the disastrous single-term US president, Donald J. Trump, is that distrusting public Health Officials who tried to explain the science behind the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to mitigate it, and by extension, all scientists, to the extent of harassing them, attacking them, and even making death threats against them when they deliver unwelcome news, has now become acceptable to a significant proportion of American adults.

That proportion appears to be growing according to an investigation by scientists from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, the University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, USA, the Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York, USA and the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, Ithaca, New York, USA. Their findings are published open access in the online Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Open Network.

Their key findings were:
Key Points

Question What factors shape US adults’ beliefs regarding whether threatening or harassing public health officials was justified during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Findings In this survey study of 1086 US adults, the share who believed that harassing or threatening public health officials because of business closures was justified rose from 20% to 25% and 15% to 21%, respectively, from November 2020 to July and August 2021. There were increases in negative views over time among higher earners, political independents, those with more education, and those most trusting of science.

Meaning These findings suggest that restoring trust in public health officials will require strategies tailored to engage diverse viewpoints.

They give more detail in the abstract to their paper:
Abstract

Importance The rise in attacks on public health officials has weakened the public health workforce and complicated COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Objective To examine the share of US adults who believed harassing or threatening public health officials because of COVID-19 business closures was justified and the factors shaping those beliefs.

Design, Setting, and Participants The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Civic Life and Public Health Survey was fielded from November 11 to 30, 2020, and July 26 to August 29, 2021. A nationally representative cohort of 1086 US adults was included.

Main Outcomes and Measures Respondents were asked how much they believed that threatening or harassing public health officials for business closures to slow COVID-19 transmission was justified. Adjusted differences in beliefs regarding attacks on public health officials were examined by respondent sociodemographic and political characteristics and by trust in science.

Results Of 1086 respondents who completed both survey waves, 565 (52%) were women, and the mean (SE) age was 49 (0.77) years. Overall, 177 respondents (16%) were Hispanic, 125 (11%) were non-Hispanic Black, 695 (64%) were non-Hispanic White, and 90 (8%) were non-Hispanic and another race. From November 2020 to July and August 2021, the share of adults who believed harassing or threatening public health officials because of business closures was justified rose from 20% (n = 218) to 25% (n = 276) (P = .046) and 15% (n = 163) to 21% (n = 232) (P = .01), respectively. In multivariable regression analysis, respondents who trusted science not much or not at all were more likely to view threatening public health officials as justified compared with who trusted science a lot (November 2020: 35% [95% CI, 21%-49%] vs 7% [95% CI, 4%-9%]; P < .001; July and August 2021: 47% [95% CI, 33%-61%] vs 15% [95% CI, 11%-19%]; P < .001). There were increases in negative views toward public health officials between November 2020 and July and August 2021, among those earning $75 000 or more annually (threatening justified: 7 [95% CI, 1-14] percentage points; P = .03), those with some college education (threatening justified: 6 [95% CI, 2-11] percentage points; P = .003), those identifying as politically independent (harassing justified: 9 [95% CI, 3-14] percentage points; P = .01), and those trusting science a lot (threatening justified: 8 [95% CI, 4-13] percentage points; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance While antagonism toward public health officials was concentrated among those doubting science and groups most negatively affected by the pandemic (eg, those with lower income and less education), the findings of this study suggest that there has been a shift toward such beliefs within more economically advantaged subgroups and those more trusting of science. Restoring public trust in public health officials will require nuanced engagement with diverse groups.
The findings are summarised in the following charts:

Figure 1. Unadjusted Share of US Adults Who Believed Harassing or Threatening Public Health Officials for Closing Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic is Justified, November 2020 and July to August 2021

Figure shows the percentage of respondents believing that harassing or threatening public health officials was justified in November 2020 and July to August 2021. Those responding that harassing or threatening of public health officials was justified a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount were coded as 1 and those responding a little or not at all were coded as zero. Error bars indicate 95% CIs.
Figure 2. Unadjusted Share of US Adults Who Believed Harassing or Threatening Public Health Officials, Politicians, or Both Was Justified, November 2020

Those responding that harassing (512 adults) or threatening (285 adults) of public health officials or politicians was justified a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount were coded as 1, and those responding a little or not at all were coded as zero.

Figure 3. Estimated Share of 1061 US Adults Who Believed That Harassing Public Health Officials was Justified by Individual Characteristics, November 2020 and July to August 2021

Estimated probabilities were calculated from a multivariable logistic regression model included in eTable 4 in the Supplement. Those responding that harassing public health officials was justified a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount were coded as 1, and those responding a little or not at all were coded as zero. The race and ethnicity, education, and political affiliation variables were baseline data gathered as part of each individual’s participation in the NORC AmeriSpeak panel. The employment and trust in science variables were collected in November 2020. Respondents were coded as employed in November if they reported working full or part time for pay, not employed if they reported temporary layoff from a job or looking for work, and not working for another reason if they reported being a full- or part-time caregiver, retired, or disabled.

Figure 4. Estimated Share of 1064 US Adults Who Believed That Threatening Public Health Officials was Justified by Individual Characteristics, November 2020 and July to August 2021

Estimated probabilities were calculated from a multivariable logistic regression model included in eTable 4 in the Supplement. Those responding that threatening public health officials was justified a great deal, a lot, or a moderate amount were coded as 1, and those responding a little or not at all were coded as zero. The race and ethnicity, education, and political affiliation variables were baseline data gathered as part of each individual’s participation in the NORC AmeriSpeak panel. The employment and trust in science variables were collected in November 2020. Respondents were coded as employed in November if they reported working full or part time for pay, not employed if they reported temporary layoff from a job or looking for work, and not working for another reason if they reported being a full- or part-time caregiver, retired, or disabled.


What stand out here is the extent to which Donald Trump's anti-science policies, firstly with climate change denial, removing environmental protections and tearing up the Paris Accord for no better reason than that Barak Obama had signed America up to it. Then his panicky response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when he realised he was out of his depth with the science and at a loss to know what to do about it, but was psychologically incapable of accepting that the scientist advising him really did know more than he did and understood the seriousness of the situation better than him, so he opted to do what he had done with climate change - he minimised the threat and blamed others.

His supporters in the evangelical churches and the white supremacist far right, who together dominate the Republican Party, dutifully toed the party line and the right-wing disinformation media and the conspiracy theorists duly came up with reasons to rubbish the scientists as being part of some wackadoodle conspiracy involving satanic child abusers, the Democratic Party and China, and even went so far as to demand their arrest and execution. All in a desperate attempt to save the flagging Trump presidency as the death toll mounted.

So, Trump's legacy now is a dangerous combination of a large, vociferously anti-science section of between a quarter and a fifth the US adult population and a scientific community intimidated into keeping quiet at a time when scientific advice, informed decisions and radical action are needed to combat climate change and to prepare for the next inevitable pandemic. Both are going to need the support of the electorate and not the current situation where a militant Trumpanzee cult of scientifically illiterate extremists are prepared to use violence and intimidation to frustrate any actions and to rubbish the scientific advice, supported by a lunatic fringe of Talibangelical preachers and Talivangelists who would like nothing better than the destruction of American democracy.

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