In 2018 more scientists are running for office than ever before, and both Republicans and Democrats are here for it. A new national poll reveals a bipartisan majority of American voters prefer candidates with scientific backgrounds.
Right now, scientists in Congress are virtually nonexistent, with the vast majority of policymakers holding a degree in law. But findings from the pro-science organization 314 Action reveal most Americans want this to change.
The survey, which was released this week, asked those likely to vote in 2018 a series of questions about the role of science in government. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said they are much more likely or more likely to vote for a candidate who has a scientific background and who supports evidence-based decision making.
The findings suggest Americans are unhappy with the current uniformity of Congress. In a hypothetical race of just two candidates, for instance, 51 percent said they would rather vote for a scientist than a lawyer, and the same percentage said they would rather vote for a scientist than a longtime politician.
Strangely enough, this is an issue the majority of Republicans and Democrats can agree on. The survey found 55 percent of Trump voters said they were much more or somewhat more likely to vote for a candidate with a scientific background, and 82 percent of Democrats said the same.
While the survey doesn't explicitly answer why so many Americans want more scientists in government, it does offer some clues. For instance, the survey reveals most Americans are worried by the Trump administration's unprecedented actions to replace scientists with industry allies, censor scientific data, restrict research findings, and slash research programs.
That anxiety isn't just confined to Democrats, either. In the poll, 54 percent said they had serious concerns with the way President Trump and Republicans are handling the science - a surprising majority considering 40 percent of those surveyed voted for Trump.
"With more than two-thirds of voters expressing concern about the assaults on science from President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress, it is more clear than ever that voters are ready to vote for fact-based governing," said Executive Director of 314 Action Joshua Morrow in a statement.
By and large, Americans have confidence in scientists and the scientific method. When asked who voters trust the most to make policy decisions on issues such as health care, environmental standards and climate change, 65 percent said they trusted scientists over religious leaders and business interests.
It appears most Americans want a scientist's dispassionate review of data and facts involved in policymaking. In fact, the majority polled said they agree scientists should play a major role in shaping policy for medical and health research (64 percent), for the environment (59 percent) and for America's energy needs (55 percent).
The results are supported by a 2016 survey from Research!America and ScienceDebate.org that found an overwhelming majority of Americans want candidates for both President and Congress to have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues, including 92 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans.
"Evidence from science is the great equalizer in a democracy," said Shawn Otto, chair of ScienceDebate.org.
"We are living in a new age when science affects every aspect of public policy, and voters want candidates to give science issues like climate change, healthcare, GMO foods, and jobs in the new tech economy a higher priority."
So maybe we should start listening to scientists.