correction

An earlier caption with the photo at the top of this article misidentified the U.S. surgeon general as Vivek Murphy. He is Vivek Murthy. The caption has been corrected.

For the better part of a year, the coronavirus vaccination effort has struggled mightily to appeal to a crucial group of holdouts: vaccine-skeptical Republicans. And for a time, the conventional wisdom settled upon a potential antidote: getting local doctors and local health experts to espouse the benefits of vaccination. Republicans might not listen to Anthony S. Fauci, the reasoning went, but maybe they’d listen to someone who was a fixture in their community.

But a new poll, conducted as vaccine skepticism remains quite intractable among Republicans, suggests even that approach carries diminishing returns.

The Gallup poll, released Tuesday, showed declining trust among Republicans not just in scientists or medical professionals writ large, but also in their own doctors.

In 2002 and 2010, at least 7 in 10 Republicans trusted the accuracy of important medical advice from their doctor — higher even than among Democrats at the time. It registered at 73 percent among Republicans in 2010.

Today, though, that number has fallen to 60 percent. And it’s not the only evidence that Republicans increasingly mistrust the advice of health experts.

This is an important way to ask the question, because people often separate those around them from what is perceived as a broader problem.

If you ask whether people want to cast out members of Congress en masse, for instance, they will often say yes. But when you ask specifically about their own representative, people feel differently — and often overwhelmingly reelect them, even when Congress is at its most unpopular. (This owes in large part to polarization, of course, and to the lack of competent primary challengers. But people generally do like their own member of Congress much more than the institution as a whole.)

Ditto for the media, with people tending to mistrust the media more broadly but viewing their local media as more trustworthy than national outlets.

If there’s a lesson from the Gallup poll and others, it’s that Republicans’ discontent with and mistrust of experts and institutions — which once largely exempted medical professionals — is growing, relatively speaking, and it appears to be extending even to local ones.

There is some mixed data on this. Earlier this year, an AP-NORC poll showed relatively little difference in trust in doctors overall, with 72 percent of Republicans trusting them at least “most of the time” and 77 percent of Democrats agreeing.

But that’s a pretty low bar — “most of the time.” And if you drill down deeper, you see the gaps widening.

In May 2020, toward the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Pew polling showed a spike in faith in scientists that didn’t extend to Republicans. While the percentage of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters who trusted medical scientists “a great deal” went from 37 percent in 2019 to 53 percent, it held level at about 3 in 10 Republicans and Republican leaners.

Nor is Gallup the only poll to show a yawning partisan gap. A Grinnell College poll conducted in October by pollster J. Ann Selzer found a huge split in the number of people who had “high” levels of trust in scientists to solve problems in their communities — 79 percent for Democrats versus 28 percent for Republicans — and a slightly smaller but still significant split on doctors — 71 percent for Democrats to 48 percent for Republicans.

That this split would also extend to one’s own doctor makes it especially important. The gap isn’t as big when you localize the issue, but it still speaks to the hurdles in getting people who won’t listen to what amounts to the scientific consensus on vaccination.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Republicans would be more skeptical of scientists, given the party’s long-standing views on climate change and other issues, along with its general mistrust of the government and institutions. But to the extent that they are also more unwilling to listen to the medical experts close to them — and layer it on top of that wider mistrust of experts — it certainly reinforces why this problem is apparently here to stay.