Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Newest Survey Shows Most Americans Have Confidence In Science, But Lack Understanding

Date:
July 3, 2000
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
A 1999 survey on the public's understanding of science shows that while Americans' confidence and interest in science and technology is very high, their understanding of basic science facts and principles remains quite low.

Science & Engineering Indicators 2000 reports new data

Related Articles


A 1999 survey on the public's understanding of science shows that while Americans' confidence and interest in science and technology is very high, their understanding of basic science facts and principles remains quite low.

The results of the survey are published in the National Science Board's (NSB) biennial report to the President for Congress on the state of U.S. science, engineering and technology, Science & Engineering Indicators 2000. The survey results show a slight improvement in public understanding of certain scientific principles over the last two decades. However, the improvement has been paralleled by a widespread belief in pseudosciences such as astrology, alien abductions and extrasensory perception.

The vast majority of Americans say that science and technology are making their lives better, and describe their general reaction to science and technology with words like "hope" and "wonder." In contrast, only 17 percent of respondents to the National Science Foundation-supported survey for S&E Indicators described themselves as well informed about new scientific discoveries and the use of new inventions and technologies. Thirty percent said they were poorly informed.

Answering a series of 20 questions designed to test basic knowledge, only 50 percent of Americans know how long it takes Earth to circle the sun, and most still can't correctly describe in their own words some basic scientific terms, including molecules, the Internet, and DNA, marking little improvement over surveys conducted in 1995 and 1997.

The scientific process isn't well understood either. Only 21 percent of those surveyed were able to explain what it means to study something scientifically, just over half understood probability, and only a third knew how an experiment is conducted.

Most of what Americans know about science comes from television and newspapers, the report says, citing widespread consensus among scientists and journalists that important information about science and technology is not reaching the public. It also cites several surveys that show belief in the pseudoscience is commonplace in the U.S. and traces this belief to the entertainment industry.

"Americans in the next decade will be asked to make important decisions that will involve highly technical issues such as genetically engineered crops and the preservation of biodiversity," says NSF director Rita Colwell. "To understand these issues, the public must be better informed about basic science and engineering, as well as the scientific process."

Even if they don't understand it, Americans respect science. In 1999 a record 82 percent voiced support for federal funding of basic research. While 14 percent thought the government was spending too much on research, 37 percent said not enough, the report says. Americans consistently believe that the benefits of scientific research outweigh any harmful results. Public confidence in the medical and scientific communities, the report points out, is higher than in other American institutions, including education, the Supreme Court, television, and the media.

-NSB-

See also:

Full volumes of Science and Engineering Indicators 2000:http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsb001

Related news releases and backgrounders: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/press/00/pr_indicators.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Newest Survey Shows Most Americans Have Confidence In Science, But Lack Understanding." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000625232907.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2000, July 3). Newest Survey Shows Most Americans Have Confidence In Science, But Lack Understanding. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000625232907.htm
National Science Foundation. "Newest Survey Shows Most Americans Have Confidence In Science, But Lack Understanding." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000625232907.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Science News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the risk of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the U.S. is essentially zero Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum. He also said an Ebola vaccine will be tested in West Africa in the next few months. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Samsung's Incredible Shrinking Smartphone Profits

Samsung's Incredible Shrinking Smartphone Profits

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 30, 2014) The world's top mobile maker is under severe pressure, delivering a 60 percent drop in Q3 profit as its handset business struggles. Turning it around may not prove easy, says Reuters' Jon Gordon. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer History on Display at Museum of Death

Killer History on Display at Museum of Death

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) Visitors take a trip down murderer memory lane at the Museum of Death located in the heart of Hollywood. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A nurse who vowed to defy Maine's voluntary quarantine for health care workers who treated Ebola patients followed through on her promise Thursday, leaving her home for an hour-long bike ride. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins