Most likely voters—even religious—want presidential debate on science

April 3, 2012

An overwhelming majority of likely voters want American presidential candidates to formally debate major science-related issues, and believe that such a debate is more important than one on the candidates’ faith and values, according to a national public opinion poll released today.

The survey, which can be downloaded here, found similar consensus among all likely voters. Eighty-five percent of all respondents agreed that presidential candidates should participate in a science-focused debate on issues such as health care, climate change, energy, education, and innovation. In comparison, 89 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Protestants, 82 percent of Catholics, 85 percent of women, and 83 percent of men agreed.

In fact, respondents ranked science as the third most important presidential debate topic (84 percent), behind just foreign policy/national security (87 percent) and the economy/taxes (93 percent). Meanwhile, faith and values finished last (52 percent). These findings fit well with last month’s Pew poll, which showed that more Americans than not think political leaders are talking too much about their religious beliefs.

Another interesting result from the new poll: 81 percent of Republicans said it was wrong for elected officials to squash or interfere with scientific reports that conflict with their own views, compared to just 75 percent of Democrats.

The survey was commissioned by, a nonprofit dedicated to elevating the role of science in American public dialogue. It was conducted online by JZ Analytics (John Zogby, Senior Analyst) in partnership with Research!America and