Fact Sheets: Public Views About Science

This roundup of findings shows public views about science-related issues and the role of science in society in Spain. 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 Spain

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 Spain compares on medical treatments, scientific achievements and other areas

Across the 20 publics, a median of 59% say their medical treatments are at least above average. In Spain, 62% think their country’s medical treatments are the best in the world or above average. Only about one-in-ten Spaniards (9%) think their medical treatments are below average.

Comparatively smaller shares in Spain view their scientific achievements (35%) and technological achievements (25%) as above average or the best in the world. Assessments of STEM education are slightly lower: 28% of Spaniards say their country’s STEM education at the university level is above average or the best in the world, and just 21% say this about STEM education at the primary and secondary school levels.

Majorities 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 Spain, 72% of people say being a world leader in scientific achievements is very important, the highest share of any of the 20 survey publics.

Chart shows attitudes about the value of government investments in scientific research in SpainOverall, 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 Spain, 91% of adults say this, the highest share of any of the 20 publics surveyed.

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

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 Spain, about two-thirds (65%) say the European Space Agency’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 Spain, people tend to have more positive views of the development of artificial intelligence. Six-in-ten say artificial intelligence has been good for society, while 26% say it has been bad. By contrast, views of workplace automation through robotics are more negative: 50% say automation has been a bad thing compared with fewer (37%) who say it 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 Spain, people are similarly skeptical. Only 18% say fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides are safe, while a majority (55%) thinks they are unsafe, and 26% say they don’t know enough about this issue to say. Similarly, more see 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. Spain is among the survey publics most likely to rate the preventive health benefits as high and the risk of side effects as low. About eight-in-ten Spaniards (81%) say the preventive health benefits from the MMR vaccine are high; 65% rate the risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine as low or none.

Views on climate and the environment in Spain

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 Spain, 73% think protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs. A far smaller share (20%) think 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 Spain, more than eight-in-ten (84%) say climate change is affecting where they live a great deal (53%) or some (31%).

A 20-public median of 58% say their national government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. About eight-in-ten Spaniards (82%) say their government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, the largest share among the 20 survey publics. A much smaller share (14%) says the government is doing about the right amount, and just 2% 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.