Most Americans Say President Trump Should Prioritize Science and Technology to Strengthen U.S. Infrastructure
A strong majority of Americans (81%) say it is important for President Trump to assign a high priority to putting science, technology and engineering to work to strengthen our nation's infrastructure. The percentages are high across the political spectrum – 86% of Republicans, 85% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, according to a new national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America. Putting health research and innovation to work to assure continued medical progress should also be assigned a high priority by the president, according to 83% who say it is important. Fifty-four percent say it is “very” important, a 12% increase since January 2017. Sixty-four percent of Democrats, 50% of Republicans and 48% of Independents agree it’s “very” important.
Respondents are split as to whether America’s global preeminence in science and innovation will strengthen or weaken in 2018. Thirty-one percent say weaken, 30% say strengthen, 23% say not sure and 17% say neither. China has increased its spending on research and development (R&D) by about 18% each year since 2000 compared to 4% annual increases in the U.S., according to the National Science Foundation’s Science & Engineering Indicators report. In his inaugural address in January 2017, President Trump voiced optimism about leveraging innovation to overcome national challenges. “We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.”
“Accomplishing bold goals like those President Trump set last year requires giving science and innovation a very high priority in his Administration. We urge him to speak to that priority in his State of the Union address,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “The president is expected to announce a new national infrastructure initiative. R&D is the infrastructure underlying job-creating, life-saving innovation. Achieving success in this important initiative requires bolstering the budgets of federal science agencies, incentivizing public-private partnerships, and placing a greater emphasis on STEM education.”
A strong majority of Americans (79%) say it is important for the federal government to support incentives for private sector investment in new treatments and cures, and significant percentages (nearly 50% - 82%) say that scientists should play a major role in shaping policy over a wide range of issues including roads, bridges and infrastructure, national defense, job creation, education and medical and health research. Particularly relevant as the midterm election season gets underway, a large majority of Americans (77%) say it is important for candidates running for Congress to assign a high priority to increase funding for medical research. The sentiment holds true across political parties -- Democrats (83%), Republicans (80%), Independents (68%). A strong majority (80%) also say it is important for candidates running for Congress to have a basic understanding of scientific issues, including 85% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, 74% of Independents. More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) say it is important that candidates for Congress have a science advisor, including 76% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans and 63% of Independents. And 67% of Americans agree that public policies should be based on the best available science, with similar majorities across party lines -- Democrats (73%), Republicans (70%), Independents (58%).
When asked what should be priorities for the federal government, reducing health care costs (59%), increasing access to health care (47%), addressing the opioid epidemic (43%), combatting disease (35%) and funding scientific research (34%) were the top responses. In a separate question, drug/substance abuse was chosen as the second most important health issue facing the nation, behind cancer.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently extended the public health emergency declaration for the opioid crisis. The designation gives federal health agencies flexibility to respond to the crisis but no new funding or resources have been allocated to address the epidemic. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (64%) say they support increased funding for research to better understand and combat opioid addiction -- more Democrats (80%) than Republicans (61%) and Independents (51%) agree. More than half of respondents (51%) say they know someone who experienced pain so severe that they sought prescription medicines to treat it. Yet, only 39% say that prescription pain medication abuse and addiction is a major problem in their community.
More than half of those surveyed (57%) agree the opioid epidemic has negatively impacted local economies and job growth. When asked about barriers to effectively combatting the opioid epidemic, overprescribing of opioids, lack of access to treatment, and lack of coordination between state and federal governments to address the epidemic were among the top responses. As for who should be responsible for educating the public about opioid addiction, 68% of respondents said health care professionals followed by government (46%), industry (28%), and academia (28%).
Among other survey results:
- Sixty-six percent of respondents say it is important to increase federal funding for research into the delivery of rural medical services, the viability of rural health care facilities, and the health of individuals in rural areas.
- When asked whether their family’s health has been improved by medical research, more than a quarter of respondents (27%) said no, 48% said yes and 26% said not sure.
- Only one-third of respondents (33%) say the health care services they personally receive are based on the best and more recent research available (35% say no and 33% say not sure).
- More than half of respondents (51%) say public health investment in mental health research is not enough, and nearly two-thirds (65%) say it is important for the U.S. to invest public dollars in the prevention of suicide.
- When it comes to rising health care costs, only 21% of respondents say medical research is part of the problem (47% say it is part of the solution, 32% say not sure).
- More than half of respondents (55%) favor federal funding for medical research using embryonic stem cells (29% say not sure and 16% oppose).
The nationwide survey of 1,013 U.S. adults was conducted by Zogby Analytics for Research!America in January 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points. To view survey results, click here.