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Poll: Ideology Should Not Drive Scientific Advice (2004)

Americans echo concerns of leading scientists

A national survey released September 21, 2004 by the Integrity of Science Working Group found that an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Americans believe the federal government has an important role to play in scientific research. Two-thirds of those surveyed strongly believe government science should be insulated from politics and that it is unacceptable to ask about party affiliation or political views when considering experts to serve on government scientific advisory panels.

"This survey echoes the concern raised by our country’s leading scientists that scientific integrity is critical to our democracy," said Alden Meyer, director of policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Americans strongly reject the notion that ideology should drive the selection of independent scientific advisors who serve on government advisory panels. Rather, the public realizes that when it comes to matters of health and safety, an open mind and expert credentials are the most important criteria."

According to the survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. between August 16-23, 2004, 89 percent of respondents believe expert knowledge in the field is a very important quality when considering candidates for government scientific advisory committees and 85 percent believe having an open mind is very important. Conversely, only 14 percent of respondents believe it is very important to have similar views as the president.

"The majority of Americans find actions by the Bush administration—from removing findings from government reports on global warming and withholding scientific analysis on toxic mercury contamination to stacking science advisory panels on childhood lead poisoning prevention with industry candidates—to be unacceptable," said Meyer. "The Union of Concerned Scientists is working with scientists, legislators, and other organizations to develop and implement a set of policies to prevent administrations of either party from engaging in these activities in the future."

The survey employed random-digit-dial technology and has a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points.

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