As the 115th Congress nears its endgame on funding the federal government this month, a new poll shows clear public support for agency spending on science and technology research that the Trump administration has proposed trimming.
Eight in 10 registered voters approve of the federal government using taxpayer funds to invest in scientific research, according the results released on Tuesday by the Science Coalition, a group of research universities.
Fully 94 percent of respondents said they believe it is important for the United States to be the global leader in scientific research and technology; 72 percent of voters expressed the belief that scientific research helps grow the U.S. economy; and 60 percent said they supported the federal government investing more in scientific research, according to the survey taken Nov. 10-14. The survey had 800 respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
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The support cuts across party lines, though Republican voters appear slightly less enthusiastic about increases in such funding, according to comments made in a press call by Elizabeth Harrington, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted the survey.
Slightly more support for science comes from those higher on the socio-economic scale, she added, which is consistent with past polls. Support for science spending has risen to its highest level this year, she added. The public’s top priorities for research are in the medical field, followed by the environment, energy independence and pursuing technology for keeping the nation safe, the survey showed.
“These results show that the American people place a high value on this type of science, and believe the federal government has a responsibility to promote the future of American innovation,” said Anna Quider, president of The Science Coalition and director of federal relations at Northern Illinois University. “Last year, Congress funded fundamental research at the highest level in 17 years. It is imperative to keep up that momentum, and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree.”
The group plans to share the poll results with Congress and agency officials.
With lawmakers now facing a Dec. 21 deadline to fund the third of the government still awaiting fiscal 2019 appropriations, many in the science community are optimistic that Congress will continue rejecting the cuts proposed by the White House.
“This is shaping up to be a another solid year for science funding, given discretionary spending only went up by about 3 percent,” said Matt Hourihan, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In September his group noted that Congress, in approving the largest of its “minibus” spending bills, had given the Defense Department and National Institutes of Health “sizable research gains,” while continuing “to dismiss recommended funding cuts from the White House.”
For remaining agencies such as the Agriculture Department, NASA and the National Science Foundation, “increases on the order of 4 percent to 5 percent seem to be in the cards for many research programs, if Congress and the White House can finish the job and avoid a full-year continuing resolution,” he told Government Executive on Tuesday.