New Delhi: A new survey by Washington-based Pew Research Centre has found that 38 per cent Americans thought the US was losing ground on other countries in scientific advancements, especially on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Conducted from 13 to 18 September among 10,588 adults, the survey also found that only 14 per cent US citizens thought the country was excelling in scientific achievements compared to other nations.
According to the survey, “older Americans, men and those with a college degree or more education” were more likely to consider it important for the US to become a world leader in scientific advancements. Around eight out of 10 US citizens also thought that government investments in science and technology were essential.
The survey — the results of which were released last week (25 October) — had weighed in aspects such as gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other factors that are representative of the adult population in the US.
Should scientists play an active role in policy debates?
When asked if scientists should have a say on policy debates concerning scientific matters, 48 per cent Americans answered in the affirmative, while 51 per cent believed scientists must instead “focus on establishing scientific facts”.
The survey also noted what Democrats and Republicans have to say about this.
Around 29 per cent Republicans (down from 43 per cent in May 2020) said scientists should take an active role in scientific policy debates, while 66 per cent Democrats (down from 75 per cent in May 2020) sided with this position.
The survey also revealed that around 55 per cent Democrats thought scientists are better at making decisions on science policy issues. But six out of 10 Democrats also said that scientists currently do not have enough sway on public policy debates.
In contrast, 36 per cent Republicans thought “scientists have too much influence on public policy debates”, with only 24 per cent from the group disagreed to it.
Faith in the scientific institutions
Between May 2020 and now, the survey noted, there has been a 6 per cent increase in the share of Americans who thought public opinion should be an essential guiding force for policy-making in science.
The survey also found that 28 per cent of citizens have the “strongest level of confidence” in scientists to “act in the best interests of the public”, while 77 per cent have “at least a fair amount of confidence”.
Half of the survey respondents were asked about their confidence in ‘medical scientists’ while the other half about ‘scientists’. Eight out of 10 Americans expressed a fair amount of confidence in ‘medical scientists’.
The faith in scientists was also directly proportional to education of the respondents, the survey found.
The survey also found that Americans’ faith in the military has shot up by 4 per cent since 2021, while their faith in other institutions has lowered. Around 71 per cent citizens had little or no confidence in their elected representatives.