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60-Second Science

Poll: Science, Though Beneficial, Losing Importance

The American public likes science, but thinks that its achievements are less important than they were a decade ago. That's according to telephone surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Steve Mirsky reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

The results are in, and, Americans pretty much like science. Eighty-four percent of those polled think that “science’s effect on society” is mostly positive. That’s the result of two phone surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, released on July 9th.

Seventy-three percent believe that federal funding of basic research pays off in the long run. But the public’s rating of the overall significance of science seems to have dropped in the last 10 years. In 1999, 47 percent of those polled said that scientific advances were among the most important U.S. achievements. Today, only 27 percent think so.

And Americans are aware of scientific info much more when it’s related to their daily lives and health. For example, 91 percent know that aspirin’s an over-the-counter drug sometimes used to prevent heart attacks; only 46 percent can tell you which are bigger, electrons or atoms.

To gauge your general basic science knowledge, including on the atom/electron question, take the test at pewresearch.org/sciencequiz 

—Steve Mirsky

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