A new survey looks at how much Americans actually know about science
Recently, the Pew Research Center administered an eleven-question quiz to measure science knowledge in Americans. The results of the survey from those who took it between January 7th to the 21st, 2019 have just been revealed. Much of what they found was encouraging but some were surprising. Here’s what they found.
Most Americans Know Something
The Pew Center reported that most people who took the survey did know something about science concepts. For example, they’ve got a generally firm grasp on how antibiotics work or on what is involved in an incubation period. Participants answered a bit more than half of the questions correctly and the mean number of correct answers in the survey stands at 6.7 while the median number of correctly answered questions was 7 out of 11. About 40 percent of Americans correctly answered between 9 and 11 of the questions and qualified as highly knowledgable. About 30 percent of Americans were qualified as having a medium-level of knowledge, answering between 5 and 8 of the questions correctly.
The administrators acknowledged that science covers numerous fields and while the strongest quiz takers responded well across all fields, most people’s knowledge varied depending on what they were being asked. Knowledge also appeared to weaken as information became more specific. For example, in the Earth Sciences field, 68 percent of quiz takers knew that oil and gas were fossil fuels but only 39 percent could identify that the main components of antacids were bases. Similarly, in the Life Sciences field, 79 percent of survey takers understood that antibiotic overuse puts individuals at risk for resistance, but just 56 percent could identify an example of genetic engineering.
Some Results Varied By Demographic
The researchers found dramatic differences in knowledge of science facts when they compared the results by gender, education level, race, and ethnicity. For example, they found that men outscored higher in general science knowledge, but these results didn’t correlate across all answers on the survey.
In other contrasts, Americans with a postgraduate degree scored better than Americans with a high school diploma. Researchers found this was one of the most striking results and believe that it happens because respondents were exposed to more science information at higher learning levels. They’ve found similar results in other surveys of science knowledge. The other surveys suggested that respondents with higher levels of learning are more likely to visit museums, zoos, aquariums with science information presented to them. They’re also more likely to access media where scientific issues are discussed.
In terms of race, white survey takers were more likely to score highly when compared to black or Hispanic survey takers. Survey takers scored roughly the same if they were Republican or Democrat, but conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats tended to score more highly than moderates of either affiliation. These outcomes could be the results of members of racially or politically specific groups having more natural access to, or actively seeking, scientific information.
The Reason Behind The Survey
The Pew Center conducted the survey in order to get a better sense of how much Americans actually knew about scientific information. This information impacts a great deal of government policy and decision making on both the national and individual levels. The decisions are influenced by what they know science. Hopefully, improved knowledge would lead to better decision making and more impactful results.
How Would You Do? Compare Your Scores
Are you interested in seeing how your knowledge of science measures up to others? You can take the quiz too. Once your quiz is completed, the administrators allow you to compare it to test takers overall or to those in a specific demographic group. The results should be fascinating!