The (American) public and scientists hold widely different views about science-related issues such as climate change

I’ve been following Pew Research for quite a while as a great source on media-usage research. This study is also related to media, but with another angle: the general public in the US and scientists often see science-related issues through a different lens (why does this make me think about this John Oliver video?). Do note, this is telling not so much about how people in other countries would react!

The report finds significant differences in views on 13 science-related issues asked about in the surveys. For instance, there is a:

  • 51-percentage point gap between scientists and the public about the safety of eating genetically modified foods — 88% of AAAS scientists think eating GM food is safe, while 37% of the public believes that.
  • 42-percentage point gap over the issue of using animals in research — 89% of scientists favor it, while 47% of the public backs the idea.
  • 40-percentage point gap on the question of whether it is safe to eat foods grown with pesticides — 68% of scientists say that it is, compared with 28% of citizens.
  • 37-percentage point gap over whether climate change is mostly caused by human activity — 87% of AAAS scientists say it is, while 50% of the public does.
  • 33-percentage point gap on the question about whether humans have evolved over time — 98% of scientists say we have, compared with 65% of the public.

Check this overview chart:

These surveys find that science holds an esteemed place among citizens and professionals, but both groups are less upbeat about the scientific enterprise than they were in 2009 when the Pew Research Center conducted similar surveys.

  • While a majority of the public sees scientific achievements in positive terms, the share saying U.S. scientific achievements are the best in the world or above average is down 11 points, from 65% in 2009 to 54% today.
  • A majority of adults say science has made life easier for most people (79%) and has had a positive effect on the quality of U.S. health care (79%), food (62%) and the environment (62%). At the same time, the share seeing a negative contribution of science has ticked up across each of these measures compared with 2009.
  • 52% of AAAS scientists say this is generally a good time for science, down 24 percentage points from 76% in 2009. Similarly, the share of scientists who say this is generally a good time for their scientific specialty is down from 73% in 2009 to 62% today. The drop since 2009 in views about the state of science occurred among AAAS scientists of all disciplines, those with a basic and applied research focus, and those working in industry and in academia.

Read much more here.

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Filed under Media literacy, Research

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