More Americans engage in science news: report – The Hill

history at a glance

  • Between 2017 and 2021, more Americans reported discussing science news with others and following science-related social media accounts and pages.

  • The increasing popularity is likely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Americans’ daily lives.

  • Though many trust scientific experts to clarify this potentially confusing topic, US researchers fear the public’s understanding of the scientific process has deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Americans said they would talk to others about science news in 2021 than in 2017, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The results come as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make headlines across the country.

The poll found that 56 percent of Americans said they discussed science news with others a few times a month, and around 24 percent said they did it a few times a week. In comparison, just 44 percent of respondents said they spoke to others about science news a few times a month in 2017.

The survey was conducted in December 2021.

However, a large majority of Americans — 78 percent of Democrats and an equal percentage of Republicans — have expressed frustration at the level of political disagreement over science news.

During the pandemic, strategies to contain the spread of COVID-19 and the public response to the new vaccines have varied according to party line.

According to polling results, “Democrats and independents leaning towards the Democratic Party (33 percent) are more likely than Republicans and Republican supporters (20 percent) to say they are very interested in following science news.”

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And although the survey shows high levels of amazement and reassurance at scientific breakthroughs, many respondents said they were confused by conflicting information.

74 percent of respondents said they can rely on experts for clarity, 55 percent said they turn to friends and family, and only 44 percent said they rely heavily or partially on information about Science can rely on journalists.

Sixty-three percent of Democrats said they could rely, at least in part, on scientific information from journalists, compared with just 23 percent of Republicans, reflecting the partisan confidence gaps documented in previous research.

The findings come as US researchers raise concerns about the public’s understanding of the scientific process. A poll conducted by Elsevier and Economist Impact found that researchers felt the public’s understanding of the process had indeed deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite increased scrutiny of the scientific evidence.

“Over the last two years we have all witnessed the very public debates about the latest COVID-19 research and who and what to trust and believe,” said Ann Gabriel, senior vice president of global strategic networks at Elsevier , in a statement.

“According to the hundreds of US researchers we have contacted, expectations of the researcher’s role in scholarly communication have changed significantly in recent years. What was very striking in our study with Economist Impact is that, in addition to their regular research activities, researchers are now increasingly campaigning against false and misleading information and online abuse and are asking for support in doing so.”

Despite these developments, interest in science news — which can range from reports on artificial intelligence to space exploration — remains high among the American public.

The Pew poll found that 33 percent of social media users say they follow a science-focused page or account, compared to 26 percent who said the same thing in 2017.

Additionally, three-quarters of respondents said they are either somewhat or very interested in science news, with interest outstripping other topics such as business and finance, and sports and entertainment.

Researchers attribute much of the public interest in science news to education. More than 40 percent of postgraduates and 35 percent of college graduates express a keen interest in following science news, they wrote.

Men and people with higher family incomes are also more interested in this area.

A total of 14,497 US adults completed the survey between November 30 and December 12, 2021.


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