Saturday, October 18, 2008

New PUoS study: Public opinion toward nano -- values as perceptual filters

An early-access version of a forthcoming article in Public Understanding of Science by Dominique Brossard, Eunkyung Kim, Bruce Lewenstein and myself was just posted on Sage's web site. It examines how values shape the interpretation of scientific information. The study shows how the exact same information can translate into very different attitudinal conclusions for highly religious respondents than for non-religious ones. In other words, we may be wasting valuable time and resources by focusing our efforts on putting more and more information in front of an unaware public, without first developing a better understanding of how different groups will filter or reinterpret this information when it reaches them, given their personal value systems and beliefs.

From the abstract:
Using national survey data, we ... show that strength of religious beliefs is negatively related to support for funding of the technology. Our findings also confirm that science media use plays an important role in shaping positive attitudes toward the technology. Overall public support for funding nanotechnology is not directly related to levels of knowledge among the electorate, but on risk and benefits perceptions and the use of media frames. However, knowledge about the technology does tend to be interpreted through the lens of religious beliefs and therefore indirectly affect levels of support.