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Republicans Less Trusting of Doctor's Advice Than in the Past – Gallup Poll

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans are less likely now than they were in the past to say they are confident in the accuracy of important medical advice their doctor gives them. Currently, 60% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are confident, down from 73% in 2010 and 70% in 2002. Meanwhile, more Democrats and Democratic leaners are confident now (71%) than were in the past, especially compared with the 62% measured in 2002.
As a result, Democrats' confidence exceeds Republican confidence for the first time in Gallup's trend, though majorities of both groups remain confident.
Line graph. Trend in whether Republicans and Republican leaners and Democrats and Democratic leaners are confident in the accuracy of important medical advice their doctor gives them. In 2002, 70% of Republicans and 62% of Democrats were confident. Both groups increased modestly in 2010, to 73% for Republicans and 68% for Democrats. This year, Republicans confidence has decreased to 60% while Democrats has increased to 71%
These results are based on Gallup's annual Health and Healthcare survey, conducted Nov. 1-16. The changes in attitudes about medical advice are consistent with Gallup's recent findings of partisan divergence in trust in science, more generally.
As fewer Republicans than in the past say they are confident in the accuracy of their doctor's advice, more now say they "usually feel it is necessary to check for second opinions or do [their] own research on the subject." Thirty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners hold this view compared with 26% in 2010 and 29% in 2002. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners this year say they usually look for other opinions or information on medical issues.
The new polling comes more than 20 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 48 million Americans infected and close to 800,000 killed by the virus.
Ongoing Gallup polling about COVID-19 finds Americans are largely following advice from public health officials and doctors to limit the spread of the virus by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 or wearing face masks in public places. However, Republicans are far more likely than other subgroups to be unvaccinated and to have no intention of getting vaccinated. Throughout the pandemic, Republicans have also been less inclined to wear face masks in public or to practice strict social distancing.
The increase in Democratic confidence in advice from doctors — and the decline among Republicans — largely offset each other, but there has been a modest decline in the percentage of Americans confident in their doctors today vs. a decade ago.
Currently, 64% of U.S. adults are confident in the accuracy of the advice their doctor gives them about their health, while 35% usually feel it is necessary to check for second opinions or do their own research.
In 2010, 70% expressed confidence. The current figures are nearly identical, however, to those from the 2002 survey.
Line graph. Trend in whether Americans are confident in the accuracy of important medical advice their doctor gives or if they feel it is necessary to check for second opinions or do their own research on the subject. In 2002, 64% were confident in the accuracy of their doctor's advice while 34% thought it was necessary to check for second opinions. By 2010, confidence had increased to 70% while 29% thought it necessary to check for second opinions. This year, a smaller 64% are confident while 35% think it is necessary to check.
A separate question in the survey, which asks Americans whether they have more — or less — trust and confidence in their doctor than they had a year ago, also suggests an erosion in trust among Republicans. More Republicans and Republican leaners say their trust in their doctor has declined in the past year than say it has increased, 22% to 13%.
In contrast, 19% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they have greater trust in their doctor, while 8% say they have less. The majorities of Democrats and Republicans say their trust hasn't changed.
In 2002, the last time the question was asked, both Republicans and Democrats were twice as likely to say they had greater, rather than lesser, trust in their doctor's advice.
Overall, roughly equal percentages of U.S. adults say they have less confidence in their doctor than a year ago (17%) as say they have more (16%). The majority of U.S. adults, 65%, say their trust and confidence in their doctor is about the same as it was a year ago.
This is a shift from 2002 when more than twice as many Americans, 25%, said they had more confidence in their doctor as said they had less (11%). Like now, the majority of Americans in 2002, 57%, said their confidence was about the same.
Americans still largely trust what their doctor advises them about their health, but they are less confident than they were 11 years ago, though no less confident than in 2002. Over the past two decades, Democrats have become more trusting in their doctor's advice, but Republicans are now less so. Republicans are also more likely to say they have lost trust in their doctor's advice over the past year than to say they have gained it.
Increasing skepticism of science and medical advice among Republicans likely is a significant factor in lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates compared with Democrats and political independents. Primary doctors could be a persuasive source of information for Americans on protecting themselves from the coronavirus. But it appears Republicans are less likely than others to heed their doctor's advice, which could put them at greater risk of suffering the worst effects of the coronavirus.
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View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 1-16, 2021, with a random sample of 815 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
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Americans’ rating of their mental health as “excellent” remains at last year’s record low. Still, their rating is higher for mental than physical health.
The coronavirus continues to dominate Americans’ mentions of the most urgent health problem facing the country, but to a lesser extent than a year ago.
Get the short version of Gallup’s latest research on the coronavirus in this frequently updated summary, including links to all prior content.
Get the short version of Gallup’s latest research on the coronavirus in this frequently updated summary, including links to all prior content.

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