Public participation is critical to the success of any medical research. However, recruiting volunteers for studies is becoming increasingly difficult. New research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that the growing ideological divide in the US may contribute to these challenges.
The researchers found evidence that Americans used opportunities to participate in medical research with either a general reluctance or a propensity to participate. Your results, published in Scientific reportsare the first to demonstrate the effect of political ideology on willingness to trust science and participate in medical research.
“Our research shows that conservatives are less willing to participate in medical research than liberals. This difference is partly due to ideological differences in trust in science, ”said Matthew Gabel, professor of political science in Arts & Sciences. “An ideological divide in such participation could undermine both the conduct and quality of medical research. Given the uneven geographical distribution of political ideology, our findings raise important questions for study participant recruitment and the development of political support for medical research. “
The problem has been brewing for decades. Long before the pandemic, Gabel and a few colleagues wanted to better understand why some people were more likely to participate in medical research than others.
“The value of research involving human subjects depends crucially on the successful recruitment of a representative group of participants. To do this, we need to understand the causes of the bias, who is being hired and who is likely to accept invitations to participate, ”said Gabel.
Researchers analyzed survey data from waves from The American Panel Survey, a survey administered by Washington University, in July 2014 and September 2015. The survey asked questions about past and future participation in activities related to medical research, including a clinical study for a drug, a long-term follow-up study, a fundraiser for medical research, and a blood donation. It also included hypothetical questions about willingness to donate an organ after death and willingness to participate in an Alzheimer’s study.
The analysis comprised a total of 1,132 respondents. Researchers found that people with conservative ideology systematically have a lower propensity to participate in medical research, partly due to their lower confidence in science. However, the lack of faith in science only accounted for about a quarter of the effect.
“This means that if we want to reduce or eliminate the ideological difference in participating in medical research, we can do part of it by trying to build conservatives’ confidence in science,” said Gabel. “But even if we do this very effectively, my analysis shows that conservatives are still less likely to participate for ideological reasons unrelated to faith in science. … This can affect that [generalizability and] Quality of studies, as significant health conditions and behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, diet, and mortality rates vary according to political ideology. “
Edited by Gary Cramer