One in four Americans does not know the Earth revolves around the Sun, according to a new survey from the National Science Foundation. The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held on Feb. 14.
Researchers polled 2,200 people to obtain answers to nine questions on physical sciences, biology and physical science.
While 60 percent of American families visited science museums and zoos, just 48 percent of Americans say humans evolved from lower species of animals. Around half of Americans correctly answered that antibiotics are not effective against viruses. The origin of the Universe in the Big Bang was known to just 39 percent of respondents. The number of Americans ranking astrology - the study of how human behavior is influenced by planets - as either "sort of scientific" or "very scientific," went up to 42 percent.
This finding comes at a time when most people use technology to access information. A record number of people stated the internet is the main source of information regarding science and technology. In 2001, a similar study found 53 percent of Americans stated television was their primary source for news. Newspapers were second at 30 percent, and the internet was the primary source of news for just seven percent of Americans. By 2012, television was still the favorite medium for 44 percent of respondents. While newspapers fell by more than half, to 14 percent, the internet grew nearly four times, to 34 percent.
Despite this basic lack of understanding among many Americans, people around the nation still support the basic mission of scientists. Almost 90 percent of people stated science does more good than harm. A similar number said they are interested in hearing about new medical advances. A large number of Americans are interested in science news, with medical advances, environmental issues and new inventions being favorite subjects.
"It's important for Americans to maintain a high regard for science and scientists. It can help ensure funding and help attract future scientists," John Besley of Michigan State University, who reviewed the data before the announcement, said.
Researchers also found Americans are slightly more interested in science than Europeans.
"Americans generally report higher levels of interest in [science and technology] issues than do residents of many European countries. A survey conducted... in the United States and 10 European countries [found]... For scientific issues, the United States had an average interest level of 6.0, which was greater than the 10-country European average of 5.6," according to the NSF study.
A full report detailing the findings of the survey will be submitted to President Barack Obama and members of Congress.