Nearly all Americans feel it is important that presidential and Congressional candidates understand the science informing public policy issues. The poll by Research!America and ScienceDebate.org found a clear majority–87% want a candidate who can speak on a basic level about the science behind pressing policy issues. This was true across typically divided party lines; 91% of Democrats, 90% of Republicans and 79% of Independents agreed that this is an important qualification.
The poll also revealed that Americans want the presidential candidates to participate in debates where science-based problems are discussed, such as healthcare, climate change, energy, education, innovation and the economy. The numbers here were still very high regardless of political affiliation; 91% of Democrats, 88% of Republicans and 78% of Independents think this sort of debate is needed. The research also concluded that less than half of Americans (45%) feel adequately informed about candidate positions on public policy regarding “funding for science and innovation” (49% of Democrats, 48% of Republicans, and 37% of Independents). The poll found that science is an important issue to Americans, with 77% wanting the candidates to be asked more about their personal views on science—this remained fairly consistent along party lines as well (82% of Democrats, 76% of Republicans and 72% of Independents).
The national interest in science might come as a bit of a surprise, considering how religious fundamentalism usually takes the spotlight, but Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America remarked that “with Nobel Prize announcements in the news this week, science is in the public consciousness. But is it top of mind for the candidates? This new poll shows how important science is to Americans and their quality of life. It is time for candidates to articulate their vision for maintaining America’s leadership in science.”
It seems Americans are as in agreement about the importance of science as they are that it should not be attributed to a particular party; 84% of Americans feel science should be non-partisan or not the business of only one party—Republicans feel particularly strong about that(87% of Republicans, 83% of Independents and 82% of Democrats). Again, the majority of Americans believe that public policy “should be based on the best available science” (82% of Republicans, 81% of Democrats and 68% of Independents).
“Evidence from science is the great equalizer in a democracy,” announced Shawn Otto, the chair of ScienceDebate.org, an organization that is striving to make a science-themed U.S. presidential debate a reality. “We are living in a new age when science affects every aspect of public policy, and voters want candidates to give science issues like climate change, healthcare, GMO foods, and jobs in the new tech economy a higher priority.”
The poll is encouraging; while it seems like parties are divided on all fronts, especially science, the schism is not as great as it would appear. Although the poll fails to take into consideration specific opinion about scientific information, it still is reassuring that half of the nation are not creationist, science-rejecters. Indeed, it seems facts and information are being held to a more typically Democratic esteem by Republicans—how they process the facts is still up for debate…for now we can take solace in the fact that at least they want a debate.
Additional Key Findings:
- A majority of Americans (87%) say scientific innovations are improving our standard of living. That sentiment is shared by Republicans (92%), Democrats (88%), and Independents (80%) alike.
- When asked “in which areas in your life do you think scientific research has played an important role,” “health care” and “energy” were the top two responses across party lines, followed by “protecting the environment” among Democrats, and the “communication and the Internet” among Republicans and Independents.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents (61%) say “economy and jobs” is the most serious long-term issue facing the country, followed by “health care costs” (55%), “healthcare” (48%), “national security” (47%) and “international terrorism” (42%). One in three Americans indicated “climate change” (33%) and “income inequality” (33%). Other issues of concern: “environmental degradation” (28%); clean water (27%); mental health (25%); “nuclear war” (22%); Alzheimer’s and other dread diseases (20%). Respondents were able to choose more than one issue.
- 84% of Americans say it is important for scientists to inform elected officials and the public about their research and its impact on society. — 88% of Democrats, 83% of Republicans and 79% of Independents.
This nationwide online survey was conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of Research!America and ScienceDebate.org during September 2015, among 1,002 adults ages 18+. This survey has a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.2 percentage points. For complete methodology and to learn more about the poll, visithttp://www.researchamerica.org or http://www.sciencedebate.org.
To view the poll, click here.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.