Results from attitude surveys conducted by Vetenskap & Allmänhet ("Public & Science"), VA, indicate that Swedes’ confidence in research is decreasing. We would like to present our results and compare them to those of the Eurobarometers and similar surveys from other countries, possibly in a session where trends and national differences are discussed. VA has conducted annual telephone interviews (1.000 respondents) and postal surveys (3.000 respondents) with the Swedish public concerning their views of science and researchers since 2002. The main objective is to monitor attitudes and trends and compare them with results from other countries, thus revealing the "attitude landscape" and identifying areas where additional communication efforts are needed.

Less than half of the Swedes have confidence in researchers, which is significantly lower than a few years ago. The number of Swedes who agree that scientific and technical developments over the past few decades have made life better for ordinary people has decreased, as have the confidence levels for research within specific fields.

More highly educated people tend to have a higher level of confidence in research. Women and young people have slightly lower confidence in the benefits offered by scientific developments than men.

A correlation exists between public confidence in research and support for the public funding of research. Accordingly, the public's willingness to spend tax payers’ money on research decreases in most areas. For cancer and environmental research, the support seems stable, whereas decreasing support for information technology, gene technology, history and space research is observed.

There are probably several reasons for these trends. Alarmist reports and fraud are often mentioned in open questions about possible reasons. In addition, many respondents express frustration over scientists giving different opinions, for instance on climate change. Media reporting obviously affects people. Negative feelings last a lot longer than detailed memories of what was actually reported.

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Swedes' confidence in research decreasing

Karin Hermansson   Vetenskap & Allmänhet

Results from attitude surveys conducted by Vetenskap & Allmänhet ("Public & Science"), VA, indicate that Swedes’ confidence in research is decreasing. We would like to present our results and compare them to those of the Eurobarometers and similar surveys from other countries, possibly in a session where trends and national differences are discussed. VA has conducted annual telephone interviews (1.000 respondents) and postal surveys (3.000 respondents) with the Swedish public concerning their views of science and researchers since 2002. The main objective is to monitor attitudes and trends and compare them with results from other countries, thus revealing the "attitude landscape" and identifying areas where additional communication efforts are needed.

Less than half of the Swedes have confidence in researchers, which is significantly lower than a few years ago. The number of Swedes who agree that scientific and technical developments over the past few decades have made life better for ordinary people has decreased, as have the confidence levels for research within specific fields.

More highly educated people tend to have a higher level of confidence in research. Women and young people have slightly lower confidence in the benefits offered by scientific developments than men.

A correlation exists between public confidence in research and support for the public funding of research. Accordingly, the public's willingness to spend tax payers’ money on research decreases in most areas. For cancer and environmental research, the support seems stable, whereas decreasing support for information technology, gene technology, history and space research is observed.

There are probably several reasons for these trends. Alarmist reports and fraud are often mentioned in open questions about possible reasons. In addition, many respondents express frustration over scientists giving different opinions, for instance on climate change. Media reporting obviously affects people. Negative feelings last a lot longer than detailed memories of what was actually reported.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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