Scientists think that many Americans are wrong about almost all major issues

There are huge opinion gaps between the American public and scientists on several important scientific issues, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.

The disagreement fuels confusion over policy decisions like whether to vaccinate kids or not and whether genetically modified (GM) crops should be grown. There’s a major “disconnect” here and no clear way to fix it, said Alan Leshner, CEO the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS), during a press conference on Jan. 28.

These are some of the main issues that scientists and the public disagreed on:

The issues that stand out the most are animal research, climate change, evolution, and GM foods. Surprisingly, scientists and regular Americans are in pretty good agreement that the International Space Station was good, that fracking is bad, and that biofuels are the future.

Animal research

Americans are almost split fifty-fifty on whether it’s OK to use animals for research. An overwhelming majority of scientists (89%) favour animal research:

Climate change

Even though 87% of scientists agree that human activity is greatly accelerating climate change, only half the public agreed:


Almost 100% of scientists agreed that humans have evolved over time. The public is far less sure:

GM foods

This is the issue that showed the biggest difference of opinion between scientists and the public. Just over one third (37%) of Americans think GM foods are safe to eat, even though an overwhelming majority of scientists (88%) think they are. That’s a gap of 51%.

Not only do most Americans think GM food is generally unsafe, the majority also think that scientists don’t have a clear understanding what research has shown us about the health effects of GM crops:

The Pew Research Center interviewed about 2,000 members of the public and about 4,000 AAAS scientists for the poll.

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