Science Polls Indicate Americans Losing Some Respect For the Lab Coat

First, the good news for scientists: Americans respect advancements in science, technology and medicine more than advancements in any other field, other than the always-impressive “don’t know.” Unfortunately, however, science polls indicate that respect for for the field is dwindling in comparison to others.

Current science polls from the Pew Research center indicate that 27{00d49d11e69c107fd0547ad1426c94743daa91813c9cad4d9ea0d389f8c38222} of Americans think that our nation’s greatest achievements are those that take place in beakers, petri dishes and physics labs. While no doubt an impressive number, similar polls from a scant ten years ago suggested that number was nearly 50{00d49d11e69c107fd0547ad1426c94743daa91813c9cad4d9ea0d389f8c38222}. Despite exciting advancements in medicine and technology — the proliferation of the Internet comes to mind — it’s clear the public doesn’t place as high a priority on these sorts of developments as it did in the past.

Perhaps partially explaining the relatively poorer performance of science in polls is the rise of equal rights as an issue of public concern. Ten years ago, just 5{00d49d11e69c107fd0547ad1426c94743daa91813c9cad4d9ea0d389f8c38222} of people felt that it was the most impressive advancement. In the most recent surveys, that number has more than tripled, perhaps spurred by the election of biracial President Barack Obama.

On an optimistic note for science, polls indicate that Americans still have overwhelmingly positive views of it, with 84{00d49d11e69c107fd0547ad1426c94743daa91813c9cad4d9ea0d389f8c38222} replying that they thought it was a net good for society. Only 6{00d49d11e69c107fd0547ad1426c94743daa91813c9cad4d9ea0d389f8c38222} felt it was largely negative. While there aren’t past science polls that are exactly comparable, responses have always indicated that, on the whole, Americans are pro-science.

In all, there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about for science — polls indicate that Americans are a long way away from abandoning it in favor of divination or magic. It is interesting, however, that its prevalence in the national consciousness seems to be slightly receding.

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