Will Marches Help Science? People Are Divided, Survey Finds

National opinions about the effectiveness of last month’s science and climate marches are mixed and follow political lines, a Pew survey reports.

By | May 12, 2017

March for Science, Berlin, Germany, April 22, 2017DIANA KWONOpinions are divided about whether April’s marches for science and climate will effect political change, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this month.

Those opinions cleave along political and generational lines, the survey found. For example, 44 percent of respondents think the marches will increase public support for science, while the same percentage said the marches will make no difference. Of Democrats and democratic-leaning Independents, about 60 percent think the marches will increase support for science, and roughly the same percentage of Republicans and republican-leaning Independents anticipate the marches will have no effect. A little more than half of younger adults (ages 18 to 29) expect the marches will make a difference, while a similar percentage of senior citizens (ages 65 and older) think they will not.

“The data speak to the difficulties of making the case for science in the politically polarized environment,” Cary Funk, lead author and associate director of research at Pew Research Center, said in a press release.

Thousands participated in the March for Science March 22 in Washington DC, with more than 600 companion marches across the globe, as The Scientist reported. The Peoples Climate March drew tens of thousands to DC on March 29, the 100th day of President Trump’s term, to draw attention to climate change and protest Trump’s climate policies, The New York Times reported.

According to the survey of 1,012 participants representative of the overall US population, the majority of Democrats surveyed believe that the marches will achieve demonstrators’ goals of encouraging activism among scientists, support for government funding of science, efforts to fight climate change, and the practice of policymakers seeking expert scientific advice. Most Republicans feel that the march will not achieve those goals, the survey found.

People are split not just about whether the marches will be effective but also about whether the marches’ goals were worth pursuing.

“These survey findings show the American public is closely split in their views about the protesters’ goals—a sizeable share of the public is aligned with the protesters’ arguments but a roughly similar share are either opposed to the goals of the protesters or have yet to be convinced,” Funk continued in the release. Support, or lack thereof, for marchers’ goals also fell along political lines.

See also "Marches Sights and Signs"

See also "March for Science: Dispatches from Washington, DC"

See also "March for Science: Dispatches from Chicago"

See also "March for Science: Dispatches from Berlin"

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Avatar of: dmarciani


Posts: 55

May 15, 2017

I am sure that the support for science will depend on which kind of science are you talking. I would be surprise if most of the people does not support medical research; however, it will be different with the climate one. Why? Medical research deals with facts that the average person can see, cancer treatment, the problems with Alzheimer's disease, etc. You do not need to do window dressing to deliver the message, it is quite visible the benefits of medical advances. With climate, it is a different situation, that parts of the world will be under water because of global warming is an old message from the late 1800's. Also, when you need complex modeling to make your case, you are fighting a losing battle with most of the population. That the older people are skeptical that demonstrations will make a difference, it is because they already went through that exercise when they were younger, and they can recall very few cases where they accomplish something. Yet, it is expected that young people including scientists will exercise their right to be idealistic and try to change the world, indeed, in some cases it works. But, a note of warning, do not assume that those that are not scientists are ignorant and deplorable, because that attitude would not make friends of non-scientific honest people and science needs their support.

Avatar of: Raoul Rubinstein

Raoul Rubinstein

Posts: 13

May 19, 2017

Well stated, dmarciani. There's only one perspective that I would correct. The marchers might well view themselves and their intellects as supreme, but that does not mean they consider the masses as deplorable, only as dupes. Many of their comments focus on the "present administration" as deplorable. It's a knee-jerk reaction driven by a fear and by the realization that the "previous administration" has squandered the treasury. There is no money left. If it's ever time for the science establishment to hit a home run, it's right now. Get back to work and produce.

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