"Public Attitudes to Science" is a survey that has been conducted in the UK every couple of years since 2000, most recently 2011. It's quite interesting if you're interested in how scientific research is perceived by the public; you can download the full survey results here. Let me just show you some of the figures that I found interesting.
First, here's where people hear or read about new scientific research findings most often. TV and print newspapers are the dominant sources with 54% and 33%, followed by internet excluding blogs. Science blogs come in only at 2% (I don't know what the asterisk means, I took the number from the text to this figure).
Next, a somewhat odd question. People were asked how much they agree or disagree with the statement "The information I hear about science is generally true." It's beyond me how anybody can agree with a statement like that. Anyway, 9% disagree or strongly disagree and an amazing 47% agree or strongly agree.
What's more interesting is that those who agreed or disagreed were asked for their reasons in an unprompted reply. Here's the most frequently named reasons for agreeing that "information I hear about science is generally true." The top answer (no reason to doubt it) means to me essentially they're generally trusting or didn't think very much about their answer. More telling are the subsequent reasons: It's checked by other scientists, science is regulated, it comes directly from scientists, it's checked by someone, checked by journalists. Don't laugh, this is serious.
And here are the top reasons to disagree that scientific information s generally true. The first two replies are variants of why should I believe it. Followed by it's not checked by anyone, not checked by other scientists, not checked by journalists, does not come directly from scientists, and a general mistrust in mass media. This reply is interesting because science blogs can alleviate this trust issue very much, yet, as we have seen above, only very few people seems to use them as a source of information.
This becomes even clearer if you look at the replies to the next question, that is what could increase people's trust in the finding of scientific studies:
I am as shocked as amazed that 47% of people say they would trust information more if it was repeated. Though that shouldn't come as a surprise to me because it's a well-known effect that Kahneman in his book elaborates on for a while. The same goes for the reply that information fitted nicely with what they already new. If you really needed evidence that the human brain easily falls for confirmation bias, here it is. And that's only the people who admitted it! But on the more hopeful side are the replies that ask for review by other scientists and publication in a scientific journal. One might add that at least a proper reference our source would greatly help. I think science blogs do much better in terms of referencing and they're a source of review by other scientists in themselves. So, I come to conclude the world would be a better place if people would read more science blogs. Though that might be a case of confirmation bias ;o)