Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Public Awareness Of Nanotechnology Stuck At Low Level, According To Polls

Date:
September 26, 2007
Source:
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
Summary:
National survey findings just released indicate that Americans' awareness of nanotechnology remains low. Popular awareness is nearly as small as the tiny nanoscale materials and nano-enabled devices and products now flowing onto the market from this rapidly progressing technology that experts believe will usher in a new industrial revolution.

National survey findings recently released indicate that Americans' awareness of nanotechnology remains low. Popular awareness is nearly as small as the tiny nanoscale materials and nano-enabled devices and products now flowing onto the market from this rapidly progressing technology that experts believe will usher in a new industrial revolution.

The poll also finds that most Americans continue to prefer that government, not industry, oversee and manage risks associated with advances in new areas of science and technology like nanotech, even though public confidence in U.S. regulatory agencies overall is declining.

The poll, a follow up to a similar poll conducted last year, surveyed 1,014 U.S. adults by telephone on August 27-28. It, as well as the prior poll, was commissioned by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and conducted by independent research firm Peter D. Hart Research.

Even with an estimated $50 billion worth of nanotechnology manufactured goods on the global market last year, only 6 percent of Americans -- or fewer than one in 16 -- say they have "heard a lot" about nanotechnology, as compared with 10 percent in 2006. In 2007, 21 percent say they have "heard some" about nanotechnology, unchanged from the previous year. Similarly, as in 2006, about 70 percent of adults say they have heard "just a little" or "nothing at all."

Women of all ages, older Americans, and individuals with less education and lower incomes are least likely to have heard about nanotechnology.

"Even though the number of nanotechnology-enabled consumer products -- from dietary supplements to skin products to electronic devices -- has more than doubled to over 500 products since last year,* the 'needle' on public awareness of nanotechology remains stuck at disappointingly low levels," says David Rejeski, director of the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

"Efforts to inform the public have not kept pace with the growth of this new technology area. This increases the danger that the slightest bump -- even a false alarm about safety or health -- could undermine public confidence, engender consumer mistrust, and, as a result, damage the future of nanotechnology, before the most exciting applications are realized. If they do not effectively engage a broad swath of the public in steering the course of nanotechnology, government and industry risk squandering a tremendous opportunity."

Specific polling questions examined opinions on the safety of our food system as well as the use of nanotechnology in food packaging and products. Over 60 percent of the public feels that the food supply has become less safe in recent years. Of the federal agencies most responsible for food safety, all earn similar public-confidence ratings: 57 percent to 59 percent of adults say they have at least a "fair amount" of confidence in the agencies' ability to maximize benefits and minimize risks stemming from advances in science and technology.

Key findings specific to food and nanotechnology include:

  • Only 7 percent of Americans say they would purchase food enhanced with nanotechnology, while slightly more (12 percent) say they would buy food-storage containers enhanced with nanotechnology.
  • Substantial majorities -- 62 percent in the case of food and 73 percent in the case of nanotechnology-enhanced food containers -- say they need more information about health risks and benefits before deciding whether to purchase such products.
  • Adults who have heard a lot about nanotechnology are almost three times more likely to use food storage products enhanced with nanotechnology (31 percent compared to 11 percent), and are two and a half times more likely to use foods enhanced with nanotechnology (15 percent compared to 6 percent).

Other key findings from the 2007 poll include:

  • About half (51 percent) of the public are unwilling to make any judgment about the anticipated risks and benefits of nanotechnology, and another quarter of Americans think risks and benefits will be about equal. Of the remainder, 18 percent say benefits will outweigh risks and 6 percent think risks will exceed benefits.
  • Once provided with a brief description of the potential benefits and potential risks of nanotechnology, those who completely lack awareness of it are significantly more likely to shift to the opinion that the risks will outweigh benefits. Among the 42 percent of adults who had heard nothing at all about nanotechnology, the proportion who said risks will outweigh benefits increased 27 points, from 4 percent to 31 percent, after being read the statement about potential risks and benefits.
  • Confidence in business dropped, falling five points since 2006. Forty-four (44) percent of Americans have a fair amount or a great deal of confidence in business to maximize benefits and minimize risks of new products and technologies they produce.

"As in previous polls, the results of this survey indicate that public wants more information about nanotechnology. Most Americans will be reluctant to use nano food and food-related products until they know enough to evaluate the merits of these products," according to Rejeski.

About nanotechnology

Nanotechnology entails the measurement, prediction and construction of materials on the scale of atoms and molecules. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, and nanotechnology typically deals with particles and structures larger than 1 nanometer, but smaller than 100 nanometers. To put this into perspective, the width of a human hair is approximately 80,000 nanometers.

See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070523075416.htm for products made using nanotechnology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. "Public Awareness Of Nanotechnology Stuck At Low Level, According To Polls." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070925081413.htm>.
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. (2007, September 26). Public Awareness Of Nanotechnology Stuck At Low Level, According To Polls. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070925081413.htm
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. "Public Awareness Of Nanotechnology Stuck At Low Level, According To Polls." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070925081413.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Reuters - US Online Video (July 29, 2014) Passengers stuck overnight on a whale watching boat return safely to Boston. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) 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:
from the past week

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