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Americans Love Science but They Disagree With What Scientists Think: Survey

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Results of new survey reveal an irony in terms of how Americans regard science and what the public thinks of the opinions of scientists over some science-related issues.

The findings of survey released by the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on Thursday show that there is a wide opinion gap between the American public and scientists when it comes to positions on a variety of scientific issues such as those pertaining genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the cause of climate change.

The findings were based on a survey involving 5,750 Americans and scientists who were asked about their opinions on a number of scientific issues. Of these, issues on food have the widest gaps with 88 percent of the scientists surveyed saying that GMOs are safe to eat while 57 percent of the general public deemed these foods as unsafe to eat.

As for animal research, about 89 percent of the scientists are in favor with this but only 42 percent of the public do and while 68 percent of the scientists think that it is safe to eat pesticide-grown foods, only 28 percent of the lay Americans agreed.

A wide gap in opinion was also observed in terms of science relevant policy decision. While 87 percent of the scientists believe that climate change is primarily caused by human activities, only half of the public think so. Over 50 percent of the public were likewise amenable with increased offshore drilling but less than a third of the scientists do. About 65 percent of the scientists also support the idea of building more nuclear plants but only 45 percent of the public share the same notion.

Scientists and the American public, however, share the same thoughts on some areas. About two thirds of both groups, for instance, think that the International Space Station (ISS) was a good investment. Majority of both groups also favor the development of bioengineered fuel.

Both scientists and lay people also think that science, technology, engineering and math education in the U.S. elementary and high school lag behind other countries.

The survey likewise revealed that the public in general views science positively.

"Science holds an esteemed place among citizens and professionals. Americans recognize the accomplishments of scientists in key fields and, despite considerable dispute about the role of government in other realms, there is broad public support for government investment in scientific research," the report reads.

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