As the 2020 election looms, an intriguing new poll shows that Americans agree on one key issue: science. The survey published by Research!America shows that Americans overwhelmingly support science, regardless of their political parties.
According to the survey analysis, a strong majority of Americans agree that “the Covid-19 pandemic is a disruptive event and requires urgent refocusing of America’s commitment to science.” 88% believe that science benefits them and 89% believe that America should maintain its global leadership in science. Exactly.
The unprecedented avalanche of misinformation that has been spread during the Covid-19 pandemic has been discouraging to both scientists and the public they serve. As people struggle to find the information they need to make decisions about life in the pandemic, the survey indicates that they still consider science the standard.
Not only were survey participants committed to science, they were committed to funding for scientific research. Regardless of political affiliation, 66% of respondents were willing to pay $1 more a week in taxes to support scientific research. And that funding is needed because according to a recent report the U.S. is spending less and less on research. In fact, America is now in tenth place among other OECD nations for the share of GDP spent on research and development.
“The level of bipartisan public consensus in this survey shows that support for science is much more than an agreement; it’s a mandate to elected officials to do more. It’s time for a national refocus on science so we may address the issues top of mind for Americans and live up to our full potential as a science-strong nation,” said Mary Woolley, Research!America President and CEO and a co-chair of the working group in a press release.
Do Americans still value science?
Recent events and decreases in funding has led to doubt about how much Americans supports science. So Research!America commissioned the nationwide survey on behalf of a working group formed to assess America’s commitment to science. The survey was run by Zogby Analytics in August and included 1,025 adults with an additional sample of 869 adults for minority oversampling.
The results were impressive: Americans are committed to science and they want their representatives to reflect that. 80% believe that it is important for elected officials listen to scientists, and 81% believe that it is important for scientists to talk to officials. 82% also want scientists to talk to the public.
Beyond this, 76% think that federal government funding for basic science research matters to private sector innovation. 83% said they would strongly or somewhat recommend that their child, family member, or other young person enter a STEM field.
Concern about climate change is also up by 10 points, as 66% say that climate change is impacting their own health compared to 56% when asked the same question in January 2020.
“All elected leaders should take note of the high expectations and enormous support for science held by the American public,” said Sudip Parikh, PhD, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and also a working group co-chair in the press release. “Now is the time to summon all our resolve to assure that America leads the way in solving the challenges facing us and the rest of the planet.”
The survey did show one key difference between age groups. The age group between 18-29 still value science, but less so than their elders. 74% agree that the U.S. should be a global leader in scientific research as compared to 89% of all adults. That influences their view on finance as 69% of the younger adults support investing a larger share of U.S. GDP in research and development, as compared to 79% of all adults. Nevertheless, even these lower numbers among younger U.S. adults are still sizable majorities.
Science matters to Americans, and they are willing to invest in it.