On March 11, 2020, Research!America released the 20th edition of America Speaks: Poll Data Summary, our annual publication that provides highlights of a year’s worth of public opinion survey results. This year’s report provides a useful tool for research advocates, particularly at this critical time when science is in the spotlight.
“We continue to keep our finger on the pulse of public opinion, identifying widespread support across the political spectrum for prioritizing faster medical progress,” says Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley in the introduction. “Americans know research is a problem-solver. Equipped with this information, our role as advocates is to work with our members and partners to ensure that in this challenging election year, science is championed like never before.”
The report highlights data indicating the importance of investing in research: 6 in 10 say current spending on medical and health research is not enough. Additionally, 76% support doubling federal spending on medical research over the next five years -- and this question was fielded in January, before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were widely felt. A total of 86% agree that basic research is necessary and should be supported by the federal government.
Recognition of science was up over previous years: while only 25% could name a living scientist, that number represents an increase of five percentage points over 2019. The number of Americans who could name a place where medical and health research is conducted increased by 18 percentage points, from 35% to 53%. And, of great significance in today’s context, 85% of Americans agree that it is important for scientists to inform elected officials about their research and its impact on society.
The report also contains results from recent surveys on public opinion around genetics research and organ donation for research. Americans agree (77%) that genetics research is important to improving their family’s health and in the importance (74%) of federal funding for genetics research. A strong majority (92%) also agree that donated organs and tissues help scientists make medical breakthroughs.