AMERICANS' ATTITUDES ABOUT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: THE SOCIAL CONTEXT FOR PUBLIC COMMUNICATION
Commissioned Review in Support of the Alan Leshner Leadership Institute American Association for the Advancement of Science Prepared by Matthew C. Nisbet Associate Professor Communication, Public Policy & Urban Affairs Northeastern University Ezra Markowitz Assistant Professor Environmental Conservation University of Massachusetts-‐Amherst
Science & Technology Attitudes 2 PREFACE AAAS describes public engagement with science as intentional, meaningful interactions that provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public. Through the Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science, AAAS empowers scientists and engineers to practice high-‐impact public engagement by fostering leaders who advocate for critical dialogue between scientists and the public and lead change to enable their communities, institutions, and others to support public engagement. This report, with additional work on understanding mechanisms for institutional change, as well as practical experience in public engagement with science, will guide the work of the Leshner Leadership Institute and its Public Engagement Fellows, as well as other programs of the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science (Center). The Center, which manages the Leshner Leadership Institute, offers this paper as a resource for the broader community of public engagement practitioners, researchers, and scientists doing public engagement.
Science & Technology Attitudes 3 OVERVIEW
In this report we review U.S. public knowledge and attitudes about science and technology, assessing general trends and analyzing specific controversies. Drawing on more than 100 national surveys and peer-‐reviewed studies, our analysis provides a foundation for critically assessing different communication strategies and for benchmarking the impact of various initiatives. We focus on the following specific questions and topics, emphasizing the broad implications for public communication: o How are Americans receiving, seeking out, and passing on information about science and technology by way of interpersonal conversations, traditional news outlets, the Internet, and social media? What are the effects of these communication behaviors and choices? o What is the connection between various forms of scientific knowledge and public attitudes? How do factors such as political ideology or religiosity influence the role that knowledge plays? o How do Americans view the relationship between science, government, and society? What role do various forms of trust play in shaping public attitudes? How do public views of scientists compare to other influential societal groups? o How much public support is there for government funding of science? How do Americans view the social impacts of science? What role do views about science and society play in shaping attitudes about specific controversies or debates? o What role do beliefs about scientific consensus play in shaping perceptions of climate change? How does the public view the severity and immediacy of climate change and what factors influence these views? o Do Americans believe they can take actions to address climate change, or that society and its leaders are capable of acting in time? How divided ar