Public Backs Funding for Scientific Research

The Obama administration has put a strong emphasis on scientific research, backed up by funding commitments in the 2010 budget. And this appears to be simpatico with the views of the American public. A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that the public, by 60-29, thinks government investment in research is essential for scientific progress, rather than believing that private investment can ensure scientific progress without government investment.

graph on private v. federal support for research

And when queried about whether government investments in basic scientific research—and in engineering and technology—pay off in the long run, the public overwhelmingly said yes in both instances: 73-18 for basic scientific research and 74-17 for engineering and technology.

graph on whether federal investment in science pays off graph on whether federal investment in engineering pays off

These data suggest that, while Bush and the conservatives tried their best to stir up hostility to science, their views never caught hold among the public. Indeed, the public is not only very supportive of scientific research, but is clearly willing to put its money where its mouth is. This supportive environment should allow scientific research in our country to flourish in the coming years.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Culture page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.