Thursday, June 30, 2016

Finding Out About Science

Here's an interesting couple of questions from the General Social Survey. Note the slight differences.
We are interested in how people get information about science and technology. Where do you get most of your information about science and technology

If you wanted to learn about scientific issues such as global warming or biotechnology, where would you get information
The first question is generic, the "science and technology," while the second aims specifically at "global warming or biotechnology." The two questions have identical response alternatives (answers). The answers were newspapers, magazines, the internet, books, TV, radio, government agencies, family and friends, and "other."

What I'm curious about is how often people shift their source of info when "global warming" pops up versus the more generic "science and technology." And I'm really curious as to whether certain types of folks (religious, conservative, etc.) are even more likely to downshift from mainstream news to other sources when that magic phrase "global warming" appears on their radar.

For example, 18.2 percent of respondents identified newspapers or magazines as a generic source of science info, but only 9.9 percent identified these two sources for more specific "global warming or biotechnology." The internet was a generic source of 31.4 percent, but when we get specific about global warming it jumps to 56.3 percent. That's big. (Nerd Note: I'm collapsing these results across the six years these two questions were asked).

As a further example, among those who identified newspapers as a generic science source, only 29 percent identified it as a specific global warming or biotech source. A lot of these "newspaper" generic folks shifted to the internet as a source (36.6 percent of them). The rest are scattered among other sources. Something about "global warming or biotechnology" sent these newspaper folks scurrying to the net. Among strong Republicans, 40.7 percent left newspaper for the internet, while among strong Democrats only 28.3 percent went to the internet. In other words, GOPers were more likely to go to a source with more personal control, one where they were perhaps more likely to seek out sources that they prefer, when the "global warming" thing appeared.

Here's a quick and dirty breakdown with only the three top sources provided. Note there are few real differences. The two are party IDs are about the same on generic, but GOPers jump up on the internet as a source. Still strong partisans both name it first on the more specific question, it's just that Republicans lean even more heavily that way. Newspapers disappear from the top three when it gets specific.

Generic Science Sources

Strong Democrats: 38.1 percent TV, 28.1 percent internet, 11.7 percent newspapers.
Strong Republicans: 37.2 percent TV, 31.3 percent internet, 10.2 percent newspapers.

Specific (global warming) Sources

Strong Democrats: 50.5 percent internet, 22.1 percent TV, 9.0 percent books
Strong Republicans: 56.3 percent internet, 19.0 percent TV, 8.0 percent books.

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