Monday, February 02, 2015

Big gap exists between scientific data and public opinion; media owe it to readers to report facts

A huge gap exists between results concluded by scientists and the opinion of the general public when it comes to issues such as vaccines, animal research, genetically modified food and climate change, says a survey released on Thursday by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Pew Research Center, writes Cornell University environmentalist Mark Lynas for The Washington Post.

When it comes to to climate change, 87 percent of scientists surveyed say human activity causes climate change, while only 50 percent of the public agree with this statement, Lynas writes. While 86 percent of scientists say parents should be required to vaccinated children, only 68 percent of the general public agree. Also, 98 percent of scientists say humans have evolved over time, compared to 65 percent of the public, and 88 percent of scientists say it's OK to eat genetically modified foods, compared to 37 percent of the general public. (Pew Research Center graphic)

"Activist groups have been especially successful in undermining public understanding of just how united the scientific community is on many of these issues," Lynas writes. "The polling data shows that two-thirds of the public (67 percent) thinks that 'scientists do not have a clear understanding of the health effects of GM crops.' And 37 percent of the public says scientists 'do not generally agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity.'”

Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog, said, "All news media need to pay attention to this. They need to be on the side of knowledge, not ignorance.” (Read more)

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