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Americans Divided on Whether Recent Science Protests Will Benefit Scientists' Causes

More Democrats and younger adults believe the science marches in April will lead to public support for science

by Pew Research Center
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans are split in their support of recent science marches and whether these events will make a difference, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Some 44 percent of U.S. adults think the protests, marches, and demonstrations will boost public support for science, while an equal share (44%) believe the protests will make no difference, and seven percent believe the demonstrations will actually hurt the cause.

The representative survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults finds consistent divides on this topic along political and generational lines. Fully 61 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believe the marches will increase public support for science, while only 22 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican say the same. Instead, 60 percent of these Republican supporters think the protests will make no difference, compared with just 32 percent of Democratic partisans who think that.

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Younger adults, ages 18 to 29, are particularly likely to think the marches will increase public support for science (55%). Yet 54 percent of seniors, ages 65 and older, believe the recent science marches will make no difference to public support for science and just 29 percent say the marches will help.

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"The data speak to the difficulties of making the case for science in the politically polarized environment," said Cary Funk, lead author and associate director of research at Pew Research Center. "These survey findings show the American public is closely split in their views about the protesters' goals—a sizeable share of the public is aligned with the protesters' arguments but a roughly similar share are either opposed to the goals of the protesters or have yet to be convinced."

These are some of the findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among a nationally representative sample of 1,012 adults, ages 18 or older from May 3-7, 2017. The margin of sampling error based on the full sample is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.