Majority of Americans want Trump to prioritize science to strengthen US infrastructure

An overwhelming majority of Americans (81%) want President Trump to prioritize science technology and engineering to strengthen the country’s infrastructure.

The percentages are high across the political spectrum – 86% of Republicans, 85% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, according to a new national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America.

Putting health research and innovation to work to assure continued medical progress should also be assigned a high priority by the president, according to 83% who say it is important. Fifty-four percent say it is “very” important, a 12% increase since January 2017. Sixty-four percent of Democrats, 50% of Republicans and 48% of Independents agree it’s “very” important.

Respondents are split as to whether America’s global preeminence in science and innovation will strengthen or weaken in 2018. Thirty-one percent say weaken, 30% say strengthen, 23% say not sure and 17% say neither.

In his inaugural address in January 2017, President Trump voiced optimism about leveraging innovation to overcome national challenges. “We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.”

A strong majority of Americans (79%) say it is important for the federal government to support incentives for private sector investment in new treatments and cures, and significant percentages (nearly 50% – 82%) say that scientists should play a major role in shaping policy over a wide range of issues including roads, bridges and infrastructure, national defense, job creation, education and medical and health research.

Particularly relevant as the midterm election season gets underway, a large majority of Americans (77%) say it is important for candidates running for Congress to assign a high priority to increase funding for medical research. The sentiment holds true across political parties — Democrats (83%), Republicans (80%), Independents (68%). A strong majority (80%) also say it is important for candidates running for Congress to have a basic understanding of scientific issues, including 85% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, 74% of Independents. More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) say it is important that candidates for Congress have a science advisor, including 76% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans and 63% of Independents. And 67% of Americans agree that public policies should be based on the best available science, with similar majorities across party lines — Democrats (73%), Republicans (70%), Independents (58%).

When asked what should be priorities for the federal government, reducing health care costs (59%), increasing access to health care (47%), addressing the opioid epidemic (43%), combatting disease (35%) and funding scientific research (34%) were the top responses. In a separate question, drug/substance abuse was chosen as the second most important health issue facing the nation, behind cancer.

More than half of those surveyed (57%) agree the opioid epidemic has negatively impacted local economies and job growth. When asked about barriers to effectively combatting the opioid epidemic, overprescribing of opioids, lack of access to treatment, and lack of coordination between state and federal governments to address the epidemic were among the top responses. As for who should be responsible for educating the public about opioid addiction, 68% of respondents said health care professionals followed by government (46%), industry (28%), and academia (28%).