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Poll Shows Americans Across Political Spectrum Support Federal Investment in Research

Support for federal investment in research is a priority Americans across the political spectrum agree on, according to new data from a January 2022 survey commissioned by Research!America. Eight in 10 Americans say investing in research is important to economic growth and creating jobs and that investments in science and technology (S&T) are creating employment opportunities in the U.S. Seven in 10 agree that COVID-19 is a disruptive event calling for assigning a higher priority to S&T in the U.S.  

There is also bipartisan agreement that basic research which advances the frontiers of knowledge should be supported by the federal government with 92% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans, and 74% of Independents concurring.

Mental health is a growing concern

Survey respondents say COVID-19 remains the most serious challenge facing this country, with half choosing the COVID-19 pandemic (52%) as a top issue, with the economy (38%) and inflation (33%) also listed as major concerns. In a separate question, COVID continues to top the list as the single most important health issue, with concern about mental health growing. Mental health is now a top-3 health concern (behind COVID-19 and cost of health care); 11% identified mental health as the most important health concern, up from 6% in 2021. Six in 10 say that investment in mental health research has not been adequate.

Public confidence in scientists and public health officials is high, but has slipped 

According to the survey, the public continues to have confidence in scientists and recognizes the value of their work, however, support is down over last year. Compared to January 2021, confidence in scientists acting in the public’s best interest decreased 12 points from 80% to 68% and those who say the work of scientists benefits them decreased 10 points from 83% to 73%. Confidence in public health officials slipped 16 points from 78% to 62%.
 
Democrats have significantly more confidence in scientists and public health officials than Republicans or Independents. For example, 81% of Democrats say they have a “a great deal or a fair amount” of confidence in scientists, compared to 60% of Republicans and Independents. 76% of Democrats state their confidence in public health officials as “a great deal or a fair amount,” compared to 56% of Republicans and 53% of Independents.   
 
There is, however, robust bipartisan agreement that a scientist’s job should include communicating their research to the public (85% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 71% of Independents say “yes”). In addition, 94% of Democrats, 87% of Republicans, and 79% of Independents say it is “very or somewhat important” for scientists to inform elected officials about their research and its impact on society. 
 
“Our new survey shows bipartisan support for science and recognition of the value of science holding strong as we enter the third year of the pandemic. However, there are challenges we must address. The decline in both the public’s confidence in science and in the belief that research benefits them is worrisome. Research!America, along with all of the scientific community, must do more to assure public confidence in science.” said Research!America President and CEO, Mary Woolley.
 

Americans want U.S. to be a global leader 

Across the political spectrum, Americans agree it is important for the U.S. to be a global leader in science and technology (89%) and health research (85%). Moreover, most Americans believe the U.S. will be the world leader in 2030 in food and water security (69%), space exploration (68%), and biomedical research and development (58%), among other categories. Most (85%) acknowledge the importance of health research efforts on a global scale, and two-thirds (65%) agree the federal government should invest in preventing and curing diseases wherever they occur. 

Other notable findings:  

  • Public awareness of CDC has increased significantly. 85% of respondents correctly named CDC when the agency description was provided, up from 43% in January 2020. 
  • Strong bipartisan support for federal incentives to promote private sector investment in science and technology; Nine in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 Republicans and Independents say it is important.  
  • Support is strong for prioritizing STEM education; Eight in 10 agree the federal government should assign a higher priority to improving K-12 education focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 
  • Most support public funds for research at universities. Eight in 10 approve of federal spending to sponsor scientific research at universities. 
 

For 30 years, Research!America has been commissioning surveys to help understand public support for medical, health, and scientific research, among other state, national, and global issues related to public health and research and innovation.   

The online survey was conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of Research!America in January 2022, among 1,000 adults. The survey has a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. 

Contact Tim Haynes, Senior Director of Communications, at 571-482-2737 or thaynes@researchamerica.org with press inquiries. 

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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.

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