Poll signals new approach at Museum of Science

Institution is getting involved in vaccination debate

THE BOSTON MUSEUM OF SCIENCE, known primarily as an interesting place to visit, took a step out into the community on Tuesday, releasing a poll surveying the attitudes of Massachusetts residents about a COVID-19 vaccine.

The poll contained some interesting findings – most Massachusetts residents want to be vaccinated and women of color are the most hesitant about getting the shot (or shots) – but it was also a clear signal that the museum is no longer waiting for people to walk in the door but reaching out into the community to showcase science in a new way.

Tim Ritchie, who took over as president of the museum just prior to the start of the pandemic, said the institution is still going to welcome guests with its exhibits, IMAX films, and lectures. But it’s also going to get out into the world and mix it up on issues where science plays an important role. The poll, a first for the museum, is a start in that direction.

“Every nonprofit organization, including the Museum of Science, has to answer one question – how will the world be different in positive way because we exist,” Ritchie said. “If we build public trust in science, the world will be better.”

The poll was designed to gauge where public attitudes are right now on what many perceive as one of the greatest scientific issues of our time. The museum on Monday plans to host a live streaming event to explore the findings and what they mean for the massive vaccination effort that is scheduled to begin as early as next week.

Ritchie wants to help move that debate forward. “We want to transition from being a community institution to being a community resource for problem solving,” he said. “This is the kind of thing we should be doing now and should have been doing all along.”

Tim Ritchie, president of the Museum of Science. (Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki Photography)

The poll, which was paid for by the museum in a partnership with the Massachusetts League of Community Centers, was conducted from November 18-25 in English and Spanish by the MassINC Polling Group.  The poll surveyed 1,180 Massachusetts residents, 250 black and 250 Latino residents.

According to the poll, 71 percent of those surveyed said they were very or somewhat likely to be vaccinated. Thirty-six percent said they planned to get the vaccine as soon as possible, 19 percent said they would get the shots after a few other people tried them, and 28 percent said they would wait until many other people are vaccinated first. Seven percent said they would not be vaccinated.

Men, according to the poll, are more eager to be vaccinated than women. Forty-four percent of white men said they would get vaccinated as soon as possible, compared to 36 percent of black men and 23 percent of Latino men. By contrast, 31 percent of white women, 21 percent of Latino women, and 19 percent of black women felt similarly.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Generally, the survey found that people were fairly well informed about the vaccine, although there were concerns about whether it has been adequately tested. A large number of people also said they completely or mostly trusted some of the officials and government institutions that are likely to play a role in the vaccine rollout.

Personal physicians had the trust of 80 percent of those surveyed, while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was trusted by 71 percent. Others on the list included the US Food and Drug Administration (64 percent), Dr. Anthony Fauci (62 percent), Massachusetts state government (53 percent), Joe Biden (48 percent), Gov. Charlie Baker (29 percent), and President Trump (20 percent).

The Museum of Science was completely or mostly trusted by 57 percent of those surveyed. “Just behind Dr. Fauci, that’s pretty good,” said Ritchie.