Fact Sheets: Public Views About Science

This roundup of findings shows public views about science-related issues and the role of science in Singaporean society. The findings come from a Pew Research Center survey conducted across 20 publics in Europe, the Asia-Pacific, Russia, the U.S., Canada and Brazil from October 2019 to March 2020.

Ratings of medical treatments, scientific achievements and STEM education in Singapore

Majorities in most of the 20 publics surveyed saw their medical treatments in a favorable light on the eve of the global pandemic. Medical treatments were often seen more favorably than achievements in other areas.

Chart shows views on how Singapore compares on medical treatments, scientific achievements and more

Across the 20 publics, a median of 59% say their medical treatments are at least above average. In Singapore, views are especially positive: 74% think their medical treatments are the best in the world or above average. Only 2% of Singaporeans think their medical treatments are below average.

Majorities of Singaporeans also say their university STEM education (68%) and primary and secondary STEM education (65%) are above average or better. Singapore is the only survey public in which majorities rate both primary and secondary STEM education and university STEM education as at least above average. When it comes to technological achievements, 59% think Singapore is the best in the world or above average. A smaller share of Singaporeans (44%) say their scientific achievements are at least above average.

Chart shows attitudes about the value of government investments in scientific research in SingaporeMajorities in all publics agree that being a world leader in scientific achievement is at least somewhat important, but the share who view this as very important varies by public. A 20-public median of 51% place the highest level of importance on being a science world leader. In Singapore, 50% of people say being a world leader in scientific achievements is very important.

Overall, there is broad agreement among these 20 publics that government investment in scientific research is worthwhile. A median of 82% say government investments in scientific research aimed at advancing knowledge are usually worthwhile for society over time. In Singapore, 85% of people say this.

Views on artificial intelligence, food science and childhood vaccines in Singapore

Majorities in most publics see their government’s space exploration program as a good thing for society. Across the 20 publics, a median of 72% say their government’s space exploration program has mostly been a good thing for society. In Singapore, roughly three-quarters (74%) say the Office for Space Technology and Industry’s space exploration program has been good for society.

Chart shows opinions on science-related issues, from AI to food to childhood vaccinesPublic views on artificial intelligence (AI) and using robots to automate jobs are more varied from public to public. A median of 53% say the development of AI, or computer systems designed to imitate human behaviors, has mostly been a good thing for society, while 33% say it has been a bad thing. The Center survey also finds that publics offer mixed views about the use of robots to automate jobs. Across the 20 publics, a median of 48% say such automation has mostly been a good thing, while 42% say it has been a bad thing.

In Singapore, people tend to have positive views of both developments. Overall, 72% say artificial intelligence has been good for society, while 16% say it has been bad. A majority (61%) also says workplace automation through robotics has been a good thing.

Across most of the publics surveyed, views about the safety of fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides, food and drinks with artificial preservatives and genetically modified foods tilt far more negative than positive. About half think produce grown with pesticides (median of 53%), foods made with artificial preservatives (53%) or genetically modified foods (48%) are unsafe. In Singapore, 22% say fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides are safe, while almost half (47%) thinks they are unsafe, and three-in-ten say they don’t know enough about this issue to say. On balance, more also view food and drinks with artificial preservatives and genetically modified foods as unsafe than safe.

When it comes to childhood vaccines such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, a median of 61% say the preventive health benefits of such vaccines are high, and a median of 55% think there is no or only a low risk of side effects. In Singapore, about six-in-ten say the preventive health benefits from the MMR vaccine are high (59%). Roughly four-in-ten (41%) rate the risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine as low or none.

Views on climate and the environment in Singapore

Majorities across all 20 survey publics would prioritize protecting the environment even if it causes slower economic growth. A median of 71% would prioritize environmental protection. In Singapore, a similar share (72%) thinks protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs. A far smaller share (23%) thinks creating jobs should be the top priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Chart shows opinions on environmental protection and how much the national government is doing on climate changePublic concern about global climate change has gone up over the past few years in many publics surveyed by the Center.

Majorities in all 20 publics say they are seeing at least some effects of climate change where they live. A median of 70% say they are experiencing a great deal or some effects of climate change where they live. In Singapore, about two-thirds (65%) say climate change is affecting where they live a great deal (26%) or some (39%).

A 20-public median of 58% say their national government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. By contrast, fewer than half in Singapore (38%) say their government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, among the lowest shares of the 20 survey publics. A slightly larger share (45%) say their government is doing about the right amount, and just 8% say it is doing too much.

Find out more

Read the full report online.

All surveys were conducted with nationally representative samples of adults ages 18 and older. Here is the survey methodology used in each public.