Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Study highlights flaw in common approach of public opinion surveys about science

Abstract:
A new study from North Carolina State University highlights a major flaw in attempting to use a single survey question to assess public opinion on science issues. Researchers found that people who say that risks posed by new science fields outweigh benefits often actually perceive more benefits than risks when asked more detailed questions.

Study highlights flaw in common approach of public opinion surveys about science

Raleigh, NC | Posted on January 13th, 2011

"We set out to determine whether we can accurately assess public opinion on complex science issues with one question, or if we need to break the issue down into questions on each of the issue's constituent parts," says Dr. Andrew Binder, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of the study. "We found that, to varying degrees, accuracy really depends on breaking it down into multiple questions for people."

To assess the problematic nature of a single-question surveys, the researchers developed two surveys; one focused on nanotechnology and the other on biofuels. In each survey, respondents were asked an overarching question: do the risks associated with nanotechnology/biofuels outweigh the benefits; do the benefits outweigh the risks; or are the risks and benefits approximately the same? The researchers then asked survey participants a series of questions about specific risks and benefits associated with nanotechnology or biofuels.

The researchers then compared a participant's response to the overarching question with his or her responses to the specific questions in order to see whether the overarching question accurately captured the opinion of the individual respondent.

They found a problem.

"There was a significant discrepancy among people who responded to the overarching question that the risks of emerging science outweighed the benefits when compared to their responses to the questions about the specific risks and benefits," says Binder. "Namely, those same people really perceived more benefits than risks when given the opportunity to evaluate these attributes separately.

"For example, in the nanotechnology survey, 50 percent of respondents who said risks outweighed benefits actually evaluated nanotechnology positively in the other portion of the survey," Binder says. "In fact, only 35.4 percent of respondents who thought risks outweighed benefits actually calculated more risks than benefits in the specific section of the survey." The researchers found similar, though less pronounced, results in the biofuels survey.

The study also showed that people who said that benefits outweighed risks in response to the overarching question consistently perceived more benefits than risks in the specific question section of the surveys.

"The bottom line is that social scientists and journalists need to be very careful when relying on data from a single, overarching survey question," Binder says. "These oversimplified questions can result in misleading poll data and create problems for policymakers who base their decisions on those findings. They can also be problematic because they may contribute to different polls showing widely different results, which weakens the public's faith in surveys generally."

The paper, "Measuring risk/benefit perceptions of emerging technologies and their potential impact on communication of public opinion toward science," was published online Jan. 12 by Public Understanding of Science. The paper was co-authored by Michael Cacciatore, a University of Wisconsin Ph.D. student; Drs. Dietram Scheufele and Bret Shaw, professors at the University of Wisconsin; and Dr. Elizabeth Corley, a professor at Arizona State University. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Matt Shipman

919-515-6386

Copyright © North Carolina State University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Design of micro and nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimers and Parkinsons: At the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country encapsulation techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs October 20th, 2014

Physicists build reversible laser tractor beam October 20th, 2014

Removal of Limitations of Composites at Superheat Temperatures October 20th, 2014

Academic/Education

First Canada Excellence Research Chair gets $10 million from the federal government for oilsands research at the University of Calgary: Federal government announces prestigious research chair to study improving oil production efficiency October 19th, 2014

Raytheon, UMass Lowell open on-campus research institute: Industry leaderís researchers to collaborate with faculty, students to move key technologies forward through first-of-its-kind partnership October 11th, 2014

SUNY Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Announce Expanded Partnership October 2nd, 2014

Yale University and Leica Microsystems Partner to Establish Microscopy Center of Excellence: Yale Welcomes Scientists to Participate in Core Facility Opening and Super- Resolution Workshops October 20 Through 31, 2014 September 30th, 2014

Announcements

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Design of micro and nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimers and Parkinsons: At the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country encapsulation techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs October 20th, 2014

Physicists build reversible laser tractor beam October 20th, 2014

Removal of Limitations of Composites at Superheat Temperatures October 20th, 2014

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals

Design of micro and nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimers and Parkinsons: At the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country encapsulation techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs October 20th, 2014

Physicists build reversible laser tractor beam October 20th, 2014

Removal of Limitations of Composites at Superheat Temperatures October 20th, 2014

1980s aircraft helps quantum technology take flight October 20th, 2014

Safety-Nanoparticles/Risk management

Plastic nanoparticles also harm freshwater organisms October 18th, 2014

Human health, wealth require expanded marine science, experts say: In Rome, European experts publish a 'common vision' of priorities for marine research and action through 2020 October 9th, 2014

Coating Nanotubes with Aluminum Oxide Lowers Risk of Lung Injury October 6th, 2014

PEN Inc. Chairman Scott Rickert Announces Company Vision, Product Priorities and Management Team: Webcast Highlights the Launch of PEN October 3rd, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE





  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE