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FYI Number 162: December 28, 2004

Survey Results: American Views on Science Issues

One of the speakers at this month's seminar sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science on the November election was Kathleen Frankovic, who is the director of surveys for CBS News. This unit designs and implements surveys for CBS News and the CBS News/New York Times polls. Frankovic discussed pertinent survey results as they related to several science issues.

Selections from her remarks follow. A webcast can be viewed at: http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/election/12012004.shtml

SCIENCE FUNDING:

"I think it's very hard for most Americans to evaluate their need for increased spending on science because it sort of comes in the context of many other things for which there can be increased spending. There will always be more support for spending on education in general . . . when people think about their local schools. There will always be more support for housing. There will always be more support for social security, etc. So that in that context when it comes to dealing with the voters and the public, it's a very hard sell."

CLONING:

"There is no survey poll question that I've seen that's been asked in the last ten years on which you can get anything more than a small minority saying that they are in favor of cloning. It doesn't matter how you ask the question, it doesn't matter how you put it, the concept of human cloning is truly anathema to lots of Americans. We don't even have any recent data on it because we haven't asked it for a while, because of the fact that it seems to be an issue on which voters have made up their minds."

STEM CELL RESEARCH:

"On the subject of stem cell research, there is still a lot of movement that's taking place. Obviously the California initiative passed, it had broad support in the state, but after all this was California, a Democratic state, and whose Republican governor came out in favor of the initiative. So there was broad-based support that crossed party lines on this. It's not necessarily the case that voters and the public nationally are on the same page as the California Republican governor. Half of the public will tell us that they approve of using stem cell research. Two-thirds of that group would like to expand the number of lines. But that's still only half of the public. There are huge chasms based on education and religious intensity. The support increases with education. Two-thirds of college graduates, as opposed to 24% of those with less than a high school education. And that is also the case when it comes to religious intensity. Not religious identification, but religious intensity. Just 23% of those for whom religion is extremely important would support use of stem cells for research, as opposed to 74% of those whom religion is not important at all. It grows as one distances oneself from religion. It is also politicized. Even in August, when we asked this question, no more than just one-third of Republicans supported stem cell research, compared to 57% of Democrats and 50% of independents."

EVOLUTION/CREATIONISM:

"We just asked this two weeks ago, on one's belief when it comes to evolution versus creationism. A three-part question that's been asked off-and-on in slightly different formats by Gallup over the last couple of decades, that asked respondents whether they believed that man was created . . . as we sometimes put it, in a time frame on it in the last 10,000 years, created by God in current form. That there was a process of evolution that was guided by God, or if there was a process of evolution for which God had nothing to do with it. Those are the three themes that are sort of developed by public opinion pollsters when they ask about this. America on this question is fundamentally conservative. 55% say that God created humans in their present form. The Gallup question which adds on within the last 10,000 years, gets a slightly lower number, but it is very close to half. Just under half. This is something that both majorities of Republicans and Democrats believe, and independents, they believe, it too. This is something for which education and religion matters: 75% of weekly church-goers, versus 35% of those who never attend, say that God created man as humans as they are now. Education matters as well. But, perhaps not so much as you would think, because well over one-third of college graduates are also strict creationists. And even 32% who have post-graduate training. So this is a very intense belief among Americans."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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