Think tanks are suffering from a crisis of public confidence. A 2018 poll showed that just 20 percent of Americans trust what think tanks have to say. And, according to polling just released today, the situation has only gotten worse.
Whether we call it the death of expertise, truth decay, or simply a new post-fact world, the American publics confidence in all experts, not just those at think tanks, has decreased markedly in recent years. But, that trend appears to be uniquely bad for think tanks. A public opinion poll of American citizens released today by Cast From Clay, the same U.K. firm that conducted the 2018 poll, found that think tank experts are seen even less favorably than most other experts. Just 48 percent of respondents believe think tankers and public policy experts are valuable to society.
In comparison, the highest scoring experts were medical doctors (82 percent), scientists and engineers (79 percent), and historians (75 percent). While its perhaps unsurprising that think tank experts arent viewed as favorably as these top groups, think tankers are seen as even less valuable than some of the most assailed groups of experts in America. For example, news reporters and journalists, who seemingly face relentless attacks on their credibility, fared better (55 percent valuable) than think tankers. Even the perennial punching bag of experts, lawyers, were seen by more Americans (60 percent) as valuable to society than think tankers.