A National Science Foundation survey suggests Americans are enthusiastic supporters of scientific research even though they don't understand much about it.
The survey released Wednesday found that 79 percent of American adults agree or strongly agree that basic scientific research is important and should be sponsored by the federal government.But when asked a series of fundamental science questions, the average score for the 2,000 adults in the survey was only 55 percent correct.
Enthusiasm for scientific research and belief that it offers promise for a better life has gone up steadily since the survey first started in 1992, said Jon Miller of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy.
Seventy percent of the surveyed adults said they believed that science was making life healthier, more comfortable and easier.
The survey found that 70 percent of Americans had a high interest in medical discoveries and 52 percent in environmental issues, but only 32 percent said they had a high interest in space exploration.
Americans continued to score poorly when asked basic scientific questions, but those surveyed in the United States still did better on the quiz than all other countries but Denmark.
Among the questions, with the correct answer and the percent of Americans who got it right:
1. The center of the Earth is very hot. (True) 82 percent.
2. Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (False) 39 percent.
3. Cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. (True) 93 percent.
4. The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. (False) 51 percent.
5. How long does it take the Earth to orbit the sun: one day, one month, or one year? (one year) 48 percent.
6. Tell me, in your own words, what is a molecule? (Smallest particle of an element or chemical compound that retains the characteristics of the element or the compound.) 11 percent.
The results are based on a telephone survey of 2,000 randomly selected adults. The margin of error was not given.