Overall public confidence in scientific leaders has remained relatively stable over the last 30 years, according to a February 2018 report by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, but demographic factors and certain hot-button scientific issues still fuel skepticism among some.
Seventy-two percent of U.S. adults say the benefits of scientific research outweigh any perceived disadvantages, and a 2017 Research!America-commissioned survey cited in the report found that 79 percent of Americans think research investment is either “very important” or “somewhat important” for job creation, technological breakthroughs, and economic growth. However, educational level and political ideology are among the factors that significantly influence views of science. For example, 50 percent of college-educated adults report having a “great deal” of confidence in scientific leaders, compared to 29 percent of those without a high-school diploma. Meanwhile, 34 percent of liberal Democrats report having a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community, compared to 15 percent of conservative Republicans. And even within demographic groups, science skepticism varies depending on what issue is being discussed (e.g. vaccines, climate change or genetically modified foods).
The study concludes that more research is needed to fully understand why certain individuals are more skeptical of science than others. This will help inform the way advocates and other science communicators craft their messages.
To read the full report, click here.