Overall, science enjoys broad public support in the United States. However, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, levels of confidence in scientists vary according to race/ethnicity, political affiliation and education.
The graph above shows differences among groups surveyed by Pew in their confidence in science from a baseline of white college-educated Democrats (or lean Democratic). Specifically, the graph shows the percentage in each group surveyed by Pew who answered “a great deal” to the question “How much confidence, if any, do you have in scientists to act in the best interests of the public?”
Those who have the most confidence in science are, in general, most like most scientists - white, Democrats and having at least a college education. These data should raise some uncomfortable questions within the scientific community about why the confidence deficit exists and how it might be addressed. Surely part of the answer lies in the lack of diversity among the scientific community as compared to the society of which it is a part.
Dr Pielke seems to be misinterpreting the answers to a badly worded question.
As Clayton Oberg notes, the question is about trust in scientists, not trust in science. The responses may simply reflect the well-known tribalism of current US politics: scientists tend to be supporters of the Democrat party, and so Republican supporters (especially the white, less-educated Trump base) do not trust them to act in the public interest. That is not very interesting, and not a problem about science in particular.
But there is another problem, with the question itself. Science is a method of trying to discover how the universe works. A good scientist will advance our understanding. But her obligation is not to act in the "best interests of the public", whatever that is, but to act so as to discover and tell us the truth about the universe. Whether that is in the public interest depends entirely on what we consider the public interest to be.
So, Pew has asked the wrong question, and Dr Pielke has misinterpreted the results.
In interpreting this pole you must be careful not to confuse confidence in "scientists" with confidence in "science". I am a retired scientist who's become increasingly dismayed with researchers who take a particular position on a problem where much remains unknown and claim those with a different position are denying science.