1133   Individual paper

Trust in science and expertise during the COVID-19 crisis in Finland

Author: Esa Väliverronen
University of Helsinki, Finland


The presentation is based on two kinds of data. First, we have made three consecutive representative surveys (from April 2020) of Finnish adult population (information sources, trust and perceptions of expertise). Fourth survey will be made in April 2021. Secondly, we have gathered extensive social media data, mainly from Twitter and discussion platforms. Our focus is on the public contestation of science and expertise on from the beginning of the epidemic.

In the end of February 2021, there were a total of 742 deaths associated with COVID-19 in Finland, and the number of reported cases was 56 407. Thus, so far, Finland has managed the epidemic fairly well, similarly to other Nordic countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, and much better than Sweden, which adopted a different strategy related to COVID-19. High trust in institutions is often presented as one the main reasons for the success in mitigating the pandemic.
However, despite the relative success, Finnish health authorities — represented by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland (THL) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health issues (STM) in Finland — have been often questioned in public discourse during the epidemic.

The first results of the surveys reveal that despite of the criticism, the general trust on THL as well as other scientific institutions and experts remained high since Spring 2020. However, there are some interesting differences on the level of trust and perceptions of expertise, based on age, gender, level of education, and particularly, on political orientation. 

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