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During a Highly Partisan Time in Our Nation, Survey Shows Broad Bipartisan Support for a Stronger Focus on Science

CONTACT: Robert Shalett

ARLINGTON, VA – October 8, 2020 – A recent survey commissioned by Research!America on behalf of a working group formed to assess America’s commitment to science shows overwhelming support for science across political parties. A strong majority of Americans agree that “the COVID-19 pandemic is a disruptive event and requires urgent refocusing of America’s commitment to science.” On a bipartisan basis, Americans: 

  • Believe science benefits them (88%); 
  • Would pay $1 more a week in taxes to support scientific research (66%);
  • Believe America should maintain its global leadership in science (89%);
  • View basic scientific research that advances the frontiers of knowledge as necessary and should be supported by the federal government (77%);
  • Support incentives for private sector investment in science and technology (76%);
  • Express concern about the number of children without home internet access (64%); and 
  • Agree the U.S. is at a critical point for committing to a major new initiative to assure health, security and prosperity for the nation (77%). 

Science is seen as crucial to addressing urgent and important concerns such as economic growth, climate change, safe drinking water, ensuring the food supply and ending COVID-19 and other diseases. There was striking agreement across racial and ethnic groups.

Of concern is that those ages 18-29 appear to see science as less consequential to our nation’s future. They are less likely to say they support a greater share of the U.S. GDP going to research and development (69% compared to 79% of all adults) and less likely to agree the U.S. should be a global leader in scientific research (74% to 89% of all adults). Surprisingly, this group also expresses less interest in federal incentives for STEM education (58% to 70% of adults).

Among all adults, the bipartisan support for U.S. global leadership in science and for increasing the percentage of our GDP spend in science stands in sharp contradiction to the disturbing slippage in our nation’s global scientific leadership. According to a report released this month by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Baker Institute of Public Policy, the U.S. has fallen to tenth place among OECD nations in the share of GDP invested in research and development.  

Congress has begun to address our global standing in science and technology with legislation and in pointed reports. This includes the Endless Frontier Act (S.3832) and the America LEADS Act (S.4629) both introduced in the Senate as well as two House reports released by the Foreign Affairs Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Americans are facing major societal challenges – health, environment, food, and energy – that are now existential, due in large part to decades of underinvestment in STEM and STEM education,” said Keith Yamamoto, PhD, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy at University of California, San Francisco, a co-chair of the working group. “The survey indicates that Americans are aware of the urgency of addressing these challenges, and that science is essential to succeed.” 

“The level of bipartisan public consensus in this survey shows that support for science is much more than an agreement; it’s a mandate to elected officials to do more. It’s time for a national refocus on science so we may address the issues top of mind for Americans and live up to our full potential as a science-strong nation,” said Mary Woolley, Research!America President and CEO and a co-chair of the working group. 

“All elected leaders should take note of the high expectations and enormous support for science held by the American public,” said Sudip Parikh, PhD, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and also a working group co-chair. “Now is the time to summon all our resolve to assure that America leads the way in solving the challenges facing us and the rest of the planet.” 

Additional survey findings include:

  • A strong majority across parties believes it is important for elected officials to listen to scientists (80%);
  • It’s important for scientists to talk to elected officials (81%) and the public (82%);
  • 66% of Americans say that climate change is impacting their own health, an increase of 10 percentage points from when asked the same question just eight months ago in January 2020;
  • Agree basic research funded by the federal government is important to private sector innovation (76%); and
  • Americans see a positive future for STEM fields, with 83% saying they would strongly or somewhat recommend that their child, family member, or other young person enter a STEM field. 

The survey results can be viewed here.

The nationwide survey of 1,025 adults included an additional sample of 869 adults for minority oversampling and was conducted in August 2020 by Zogby Analytics. The survey was supported in part by the Kavli Foundation to help inform the working group assessing America’s commitment to science. More information can be viewed on Research!America’s website.  



About Research!America surveys

Research!America began commissioning surveys in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America’s surveys have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling.

About Research!America

The Research!America alliance advocates for science, discovery, and innovation to achieve better health for all. Visit www.researchamerica.org