New Poll Shows Voters Like Science (in Theory, Anyway)

By Melissa Lafsky | July 2, 2008 6:30 pm

thumbs up for scienceToday, Scientists and Engineers for America released the results of a poll intended to gauge whether (and how much) voters care about science, as part of a campaign by SEA and a coalition of scientific societies to highlight the issue in the 2008 election.

Of the sample of 1,005 adults, the vast majority agreed that science-based policy decisions on problems like health care and global warming were important, that candidates needed to focus on better science education, and that the respondents would be be more likely to vote for a candidate who is committed to meeting energy demands and addressing climate change through investments in science and technology.

Heartening results all, though the questions asked leave something to be desired as far as tackling the gap between support for scientific advances and the willingness to pay for them to happen.

While this isn’t the first poll to show voters’ desire to have science discussed in the political arena, asking whether people think science is “important” and then interpreting their “yes” answers to mean “Voters care about science!” may not paint the clearest portrait of reality.

Also, let’s not forget that polls are notoriously skewed based on how, where, why, etc. they were done, and voters have a nasty habit of responding the way they think they should, as opposed to the way they actually feel.

As such, while it’s crucial that we keep the issue at the forefront through November, a more realistic question (and thus a more accurate/helpful set of answers) might read something like:

“Would you be willing to pay higher taxes and receive fewer government services in order to fund new science and technology advances to fight climate change, increase science education, and boost health-care research?”

Image: iStock


Comments (20)

  1. Paul B.

    I took a look at the poll you referred to and the interpretation by the scientists involved. Unfortunately, I think you must have read it too quickly or missed the point. The poll itself asked voters how likely they would be to support candidates who support science ie vote for them. So, it was not an interpretation of the results, it WAS the result. I share your skepticism on polls, but think you have to get the facts straight when criticizing them.

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