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National Survey Shows Majority of Americans Are More Likely to Support Candidates Who Favor Investing in Medical and Health Research

A strong bipartisan majority (84%) of Americans agree it is important for candidates in the 2024 election to promote faster medical progress, according to data released today from a January 2024 survey commissioned by Research!America. The survey found 7 in 10 (87% of Democrats, 61% of Republicans, 77% of Independents) would be more likely to support a candidate if they favor increased spending on medical and health research.

“As Americans prepare to cast their ballots this fall, it is clear that they want their candidates to champion faster medical progress and the increased federal investment integral to achieving that goal,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “Looking more broadly, most Americans across the political spectrum believe our nation should invest more in science and technology (S&T). As China and other countries continue to strategically increase their S&T investment, it is time for our nation’s elected leaders to make this a higher priority. Federal support for S&T translates into jobs and a host of advances that benefit everyone across the country.

For more than 30 years, Research!America has commissioned public opinion surveys to help understand Americans’ views on medical, health, and scientific research and other pressing issues related to public health, research, and innovation.

Americans want the U.S. to be a leader in research and are willing to pay for it. 

Most agree that it is important for the U.S. to be a leader in health care (76%) and medical and health research (73%). Yet many do not believe the nation is living up to that goal, with only 41% saying the U.S. is currently a leader in health care and 55% saying a leader in medical and health research. 

Americans cited the cost of health care (22%) as the single most important health issue facing the nation, with mental health (15%) and cancer (11%) next on the list. Many Americans (62%) are willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes for medical research.   

Funding for research and development (R&D) is key to ensuring global competitiveness. 

There is robust bipartisan agreement that global leadership in S&T is important (83% of Democrats, 91% of Republicans, and 87% of Independents say “very or somewhat important”). Americans are aware that our nation’s leadership is at risk with 78% of Americans registering concern that China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s leading S&T power.  

To address that concern, 84% of Americans believe that the U.S. should set a higher spending goal on R&D. The U.S. currently spends just 0.7% of our GDP on R&D compared to China which is already spending 2.4% of its GDP. Americans also support (75% of Democrats, 54% of Republicans and 52% of Independent) additional investment of taxpayer dollars to advance S&T. Additionally, there is strong bipartisan support (89% of Democrats, 78% of Republicans, and 76% of Independents say “very or somewhat important”) for economic incentives for private sector investment in S&T. 

Americans are concerned about future generations. 

More than half (52%) believe children in America will be worse off than people are now when they grow up. Notably, young people aged 18-24 were more likely (58%) to say “worse off.” Growing social and political divides (65%) and a weakening economy (65%) were the top reasons listed. Those who believe children will be better off say it is because of advances in S&T (81%). 

Other notable findings: 

  • Americans are concerned about the impact of misinformation/disinformation on public health (91%), climate change (81%), and a stable democracy (87%) 
  • Support for basic research is strong: 88% agree it is necessary and should be supported by the federal government, up from 83% in 2023.  
  • Confidence in health care providers and scientists is very high overall, with nurses (89%), doctors (87%), and scientists (75%) ranked as the three professions most trusted to act in peoples’ best interest. But Americans are sharply divided by party when it comes to confidence in scientists. 
    • Democrats are more likely (90%) to have “A great deal or fair amount” of confidence in scientists compared to Republicans (67%).
  • Most Americans (89%) agree it is important that the U.S. lead globally in research to improve health, and two-thirds (67%) agree the federal government should invest in preventing and curing diseases wherever they occur. 
  • 8 in 10 support increased funding for opioid research. This support extends across party lines with 89% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans and 78% of Independents saying “Strongly or somewhat support.” 

The online survey was conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of Research!America in January 2024, among 1,005 adults plus 1,205 additional adults for minority oversampling. The survey has a theoretical error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. Contact Glenn O’Neal, Senior Director of Communications, at 571-482-2737 or goneal@researchamerica.org with press inquiries.