US Perceptions of Science

Goals

To have data, quotes, and analysis that demonstrate how people in the US see science.

Early Findings

Science v Religion and Other Key Debates

  • In the US, particularly within the media and the education system, science and certain beliefs like the big bang have been pitted against religion. According to Medical Press, many Americans see the two as incompatible. Interestingly, researchers found last year that scientific information can promote a feeling of awe in Americans, which then heightens their belief in God.
  • When people think of science, they often think about it in terms of data and experiments. But the researchers in the above study looked at how people see science either in logical ways, or in terms of awe. They found a commitment to logic was associated with disbelief in religion or god(s).
  • Some 59% of Americans believe that science and religion are often in conflict. However, only 30% feel that science often conflicts with their own beliefs.
  • Another area where the subject of science is controversial is climate change. Debate ranges from who to believe, how to measure it, and what actions to take. Public divides over climate and energy policy often align with party identification (Republicans or Democrats).
  • GM foods and vaccines are two other areas where people are quite divided on their views of the underlying science.

Survey Results

  • There have been numerous surveys of Americans that examine their trust of scientists, how they view science and its role in society, and their perceptions of science v religion.
  • Some 73% of US adults see science as having a mostly positive impact on society.
  • People's confidence in scientists and that they act in the public interest has increased since 2016. Some 86% of the public have confidence in scientists, making them one of the most respected occupational groups. Sixty percent of Americans would like scientists to play an active role in policy debates.
  • Higher formal education attainment corresponds with positive perceptions of science.

Overall Views

  • According to the NSB, " Most Americans believe that science creates more opportunities for the next generation and that the federal government should provide funds for scientific research. However, a considerable share also think that science makes life change too fast."

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