October 22, 2015

Religion and Science

Majorities of All Religious Groups See Long-Run Benefits of Science Funding

Views About Government Investment in Science, EngineeringThere is strong public support for government investment in science. Overall, 71% of adults say government investment in basic science research “pays off in the long run,” while 24% say such investments are not worth it. Similarly, most see positive benefits from government investment in engineering and technology; 72% say investments in this area pay off in the long run and 22% say such investments are not worth it.

Majorities of all major religious groups say government investment in science pays off in the long run. Hispanic Catholics are particularly likely to hold this view (86%), followed by the unaffiliated (76%) and white mainline Protestants (77%). Some 64% of white Catholics and 63% of white evangelical Protestants say government spending on basic science research pays off.

Views about government investment in engineering and technology follow a similar pattern. Majorities of all major religious groups say such investment pays off in the long run. The share with this view is highest among Hispanic Catholics (80%), white mainline Protestants (79%), black Protestants and the unaffiliated (77% each). Smaller majorities of white evangelical Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (61%) say investment in engineering and technology pays off.

There are no differences in perceived benefits of government funding in either area by frequency of church attendance.

Most Say Government Funding is Key Scientific ProgressThe Pew Research Center survey asked respondents about the role of government investment in scientific progress. Some 61% of U.S. adults say “government investment is essential for scientific progress” while 34% say “private investment will ensure that enough progress is made, even without government investment.”

Members of most religious groups tend to say government investment is essential for scientific progress. White evangelical Protestants are closely divided, however, with 51% saying government funding is essential and 47% saying private investment would be enough to ensure scientific progress.

There are no differences in views on this question by frequency of church attendance.

Views about this issue are also related to political party and ideology, as detailed in our report “Americans, Politics and Science Issues.” Separate logistic regression analyses, not shown, found neither religious tradition nor religious observance to significantly predict views about funding on this question after controlling for political and other factors.