Life Science Blog

Voters Care About Science: E=Mc(Cain)2 or Obamamentum=mv?

July 6, 2008

Presidential and Congressional wannabees, take note: A new poll published last week indicates that voters in both parties support the notion of using science and technology to solve the nation’s problems.

While the poll’s conclusions aren’t exactly earth-shattering, the figures do raise some interesting points about the core ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans.

The poll, commissioned by the non-partisan group Scientists and Engineers for America (SEA), randomly surveyed 1005 registered voters in mid-June. These respondents were asked platitudinous questions, such as (brace yourself): “How important do you think it is that America makes public policy decisions that are based on science and technology to solve problems we face today, like global warming, energy, public education, and health care?”

Given the positive wording, the results of every question phrased in such a manner were overwhelmingly supportive of the notion at hand. On global warming, for example, 70 percent of those polled overall say they would be more likely to support a candidate who tries to tackle global warming (via science and technology), with a third expressing strong sentiments in favor of such a candidate. A similar figure arose when respondents were asked if they would support a candidate who makes sure that the federal government invests in scientific research.

But in each of these responses there is a significant partisan gap: On global warming, more than eight out of 10 Democrats said they would be more likely to support such a hypothetical candidate, with 40 percent saying strongly so. On the Republican side, slightly less than 6 out of 10 said they wanted a candidate to address climate change, with only 18 percent saying so enthusiastically. The percentages were almost identical in the federal funding question too.

What does this schism mean? Ultimately, it appears that Democrats tend to believe that government can solve problems through the funding of science. On the other hand, people who identify themselves as registered Republicans seem to harbor skepticism of the power and ability of government to render effective change, or if change is even warranted in the first place.

Either way, the good news for environmentalists and science supporters alike is that the poll reveals the overall public’s preference for candidates who embrace science and technology in the effort to combat global warming. This bodes well for both of the Oval Office aspirants: McCain and Obama propose cutting carbon in a real way, as opposed to the ideologically driven dithering and kicking-of-the-can by the Bush Administration.

Here’s hoping that given these pro-science sentiments of the electorate, we’ll see more talk about the future of scientific investment and progress on the campaign trail. The equation looks promising.

Related on Scienceline:

Check out why swing voters may actually vote against what they really want.

Remember the buzz about having a presidential science debate in Philadelphia?


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1 Comment

MrChemistry says:

Ensuring that our elected representatives know that scientific issues are significant to us does not stop after the election cycle. SEA has continual efforts geared at informing and education scientists and engineers regarding public policy issues. Join us to help with this cause.

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