Perceptions of Science in America

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The essential role of the natural and social sciences in everyday life raises a number of questions about how Americans view science, scientists, and the impacts of scientific research. Decades of public opinion surveys provide a useful window into our general attitudes about science, such as confidence in the scientific community and support for science funding, and our views on more specific questions, such as the level of trust in scientists to contribute impartially to public debate. The available data paint a picture of a heterogeneous public whose perceptions are dependent on context and values.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Table of Contents

Section 1: General Perceptions of Science

Confidence in Scientific Leaders Remains Relatively Stable
A Majority of Americans Views Scientific Research as Beneficial . . .
. . . But Many are Concerned about the Pace of Change
Americans Express Strong Support for Public Investment in Research
Americans Support an Active Role for Science and Scientists in Public Life
Scientists Should Play a Major Role in Shaping Public Policy
Discussion and Research Considerations

Section 2: Demographic Influences on General Views of Science

Confidence in Scientific Leaders Varies Based on Demographics and Other Factors
Higher Educational Attainment Correlates with Positive Perceptions of Science
Trust in Scientists Varies Based on Education and Politics
Discussion and Research Considerations

Section 3: Case Studies of Perceptions on Specific Science Topics

There is No Single Anti-Science Population . . . But More Research is Needed to Understand Why
Case Study: Vaccine Safety
Case Study: Genetically Modified Foods
Case Study: Climate Change
Discussion and Research Considerations