The Public Versus Scientists | February 2, 2015 Issue - Vol. 93 Issue 5 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 5 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 2, 2015

The Public Versus Scientists

Survey: Both agree research is important but differ on key issues
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Public perception of science, science policy, pew, AAAS
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NOTE: Surveys conducted in 2014. AAAS = American Association for the Advancement of Science. MMR = measles, mumps, and rubella. SOURCE: Pew Research Center
Graph comparing the views of scientists versus the public.
 
NOTE: Surveys conducted in 2014. AAAS = American Association for the Advancement of Science. MMR = measles, mumps, and rubella. SOURCE: Pew Research Center

Major disagreements separate the public and scientists on many key scientific issues, according to a pair of surveys by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

For example, 88% of scientists think eating genetically modified food is safe, compared with 37% of the general public, according to a report on the 2014 surveys. The surveys posed questions to 2,002 U.S. adults and 3,748 U.S. scientist-members of AAAS.

A 2009 survey by Pew and AAAS showed some differences between the public and scientists, but these findings were more extensive. With the current surveys, “there is no single factor” that explains the difference between the views of scientists and the public, says Pew’s Cary Funk, lead author of the report.

AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says conflicting narratives underlie the divide. For instance, religious views may conflict with a belief in evolution. Politics, meanwhile, has taken over the climate change discussion. “Science is being trumped by these other factors, and scientists need to do something to turn this around,” Leshner says.

But the surveys revealed that both the public and scientists agree the U.S. science education system is failing. In addition, scientists’ opinions about the state of science have dimmed since 2009. The percent who say it is a good time for science is down 24% to just 52% of scientists surveyed.

 
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Comments
Adam Z (February 3, 2015 10:41 PM)
The statement that evolution is the basis of modern biological sciences should also be on the list. There is probably a 50 point gap.
Andrea Widener (February 12, 2015 11:47 AM)
Thanks, Adam. We had the evolution gap on the graph originally but then ended up cutting it out for space. I agree it was an interesting finding!
Chris Vitkun (February 9, 2015 12:12 PM)
I wonder if the favor of building nuclear power plants is correlated with location.
Joanne Moore (March 12, 2015 10:43 AM)
Thank you for this article, the gap is quite scary on some of these issues and draws attention to the need for a more informed public. Perhaps a bit late now, but I noticed the data is switched for fracking. In the original report it is 39% U.S. adults and 31% AAAS scientists.

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