A national public opinion poll was conducted online in March 2012 by JZ Analytics for ScienceDebate.org in partnership with Research!America. The poll had a sample size of 1,005 likely U.S. voters with a theoretical sampling error of +/-3.2%. It revealed some surprisingly high support for science in the U.S. among three political affliations.
85% of all likely voters agree that the candidates for president should participate in a debate to discuss the key science-based challenges facing the United States. These challenges include healthcare, climate change, energy, education, innovation, and the economy.
In 2008, the candidates for president refused to participate in a nationally televised science debate, opting instead for faith forums. But the survey shows this interesting result: 84% of all likely voters rank a science debate as important. 52% rank a faith and values debate as important. Founder of Science Debate 2008, Shawn Otto remarks:
“Basing public policies on science instead of beliefs or opinions is clearly of great importance to large majorities of Americans,” added Otto.
“Even though we often hear of faith opposing science in the political arena, these findings show that that perception isn’t necessarily true. Americans realize that so many of the most serious problems the country is facing revolve around science, that science is itself an American value, and they want to know what kind of commitment and judgment the candidates for president are going to show in actually doing something about them. That’s why science debates should be a normal part of the political process.”
Percentages between Democrats and Republicans were not that different. However, I do wonder, noting the more revealing categories of conservative vs liberal vs moderate used in the Gauchat survey, what THAT version would show. For example, would people want to see a debate if they felt that science was simply not important to inform their views? That is, conservative who are more accepting of faith-based views? The poll included a category in one question of “Born again” or “Non-born again”. As would be expected, the “born again” people did appear to value science views less.
Or, does the majority want to see science debate so they would know who NOT to vote for. It seems that idea is NOT supported since: 81% of all likely voters say that public policies should be based on science, not the personal opinions or beliefs of elected officials.
This is an interesting survey. Although, it does not speak well for spending on space exploration or cutting spending on defense, it does suggest that a large majority values science. That does conflict with previous surveys that show this but that attitudes may declining among some. Or, perhaps once again, apples and oranges are being compared. It’s hard to tell when a survey is framed in such a way. Seriously, not TOO many people come out and say they are against science and do not advocate its use. This survey says nothing about how much people understand what is meant by “using science” to inform policy. So, we could just be seeing support for science “as you like it”. But the survey results are strong enough to REALLY be a hammer when advocating for such a debate and to toss out the nonsensical faith forums. A positive sign. For the report results, right click here and save PDF.