Americans Confident Of Leaders In Science

WASHINGTON—There is no single survey of American attitudes to-ward science that compares with the British and French polls. How-ever, the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation regularly reviews existing surveys in its biennial Science Indicators, an assessment of the overall state of American science and technology. The 1985 edition reports: Forty-seven percent of 943 respondents to a 1985 survey said they had a “great deal of confidence” in scientific le

By | December 15, 1986

WASHINGTON—There is no single survey of American attitudes to-ward science that compares with the British and French polls. How-ever, the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation regularly reviews existing surveys in its biennial Science Indicators, an assessment of the overall state of American science and technology. The 1985 edition reports:

  • Forty-seven percent of 943 respondents to a 1985 survey said they had a “great deal of confidence” in scientific leaders. Co-authors James Davis and Tom Smith, of the Inter-University Consortium for Politicaland Social Research, note that this figure out-ranks public regard for the leader-ship within government, academia, industry and the media.
  • Eighty-five percent of 1,630 people interviewed agreed with the statement: “Science is making our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable.” But 44 percent believe that science “makes our way of life change too fast,” and 29 percent fear that science “breaks down people's ideas of right and wrong.” The study was conducted in 1983 by Jon Miller for the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Nearly 60 percent of 1,866 people surveyed in 1985 by Cambridge Reports said that, on the whole, science and technology have “caused more good than harm.” But 73 percent of a similar sample in 1973 expressed this belief.
“Science has a lot of prestige as a term, and scientists are seen as bright, honest people in the public's eye,” said Donald Buzzelli, a senior analyst at NSF, about the meaning of the various surveys. “At the same time, it's like dealing with a remote priesthood. Most people don't know who the leaders of the scientific community are.”

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