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Public Understanding of Science and Technology, NSF 1979-2006

This set of surveys is sponsored by The National Science Foundation—Science Resources Statistics. The principal investigator from 1979-1999 was Jon D. Miller, Northwestern University, ORC Macro (2001) and NORC (2006). The creator of the 1979-2006 core data file is Susan Carol Losh, Florida State University.


National Science Foundation’s Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology have been used to monitor public attitudes toward a variety of science-related issues and topics since 1979. This survey series has also been used to gauge how much the public knows about science and the scientific process, how interested people are in science, and where they get information about science. The surveys provided information that is used by government officials — particularly those responsible for developing education policies and concerned about support for science — and by researchers studying the level of scientific literacy among the general public and attitudes toward various public policy issues.

For each survey year a randomly selected sample of English- or Spanish-speaking U.S. residents age 18 or older in households with working telephones were interviewed concerning such issues as:

  • Interest in scientific and technological issues
  • Self-assessed knowledge level of these issues
  • Exposure to different forms of media
  • Exposure to institutions of learning
  • Knowledge level of specific scientific issues
  • Attitude toward scientific and non-scientific issues
  • Demographic questions (Age, Education, Occupation, Gender, etc.)

The core questions from the past twelve surveys (1979, 1983, 1981, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2006) have been combined into one easy-to-use dataset. The data file does not include every question asked across the twelve surveys, but does cover core repeated questions to provide an unparalleled resource for longitudinal study of the US attitudes towards science and technology issues.

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Public Understanding of Science and Technology NSF

Bibliographic Citation

Miller, Jon D., Linda Kimmel, ORC Macro and NORC. National Science Foundation Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward And Understanding of Science And Technology, 1979-2006 [Computer file]. 3rd Roper Center version. Tallahassee, FL: Susan Carol Losh, Florida State University, Department of Educational Psychology & Learning Systems/Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics/Arlington, VA: American Statistical Association [producers], 2009. Storrs, CT: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research [distributor], 2009.

For further information on National Science Foundation surveys please contact Data Services at Data Services.