Understanding attitudes towards science is crucial to safeguard the future of science, the application of its results and the inclusivity of decision-making processes related to science and technology. Most studies focus on attributes of social groups to explain attitudes towards science. In this study, we aim to move the discussion forward by focusing on perceived attributes of science itself by analysing over 300 letters to the editor in two Dutch national newspapers. The authors of these letters express a large degree of trust in science as a source of societal progress, if research is conducted according to a specific set of rules. Yet, they believe that these rules are under attack. The interests of universities as organizations and individual academics as well as the involvement of industry and government in research are perceived as conflicting with these rules. We conclude with recommendations for further research and practice.