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National Science Foundation Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology, 1979-2001: [United States]

Resource Type
Dataset : survey data
  • Miller, Jon D. (Northwestern University Medical School. Center for Biomedical Communications)
  • Kimmel, Linda (Northwestern University Medical School. Center for Biomedical Communications)
  • ORC Macro
Other Title
  • Archival Version (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • National Science Foundation
Free Keywords
computer use; information literacy; information sources; Internet; postsecondary education; science; science education; secondary education; technology
  • Abstract

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) Surveys of Public Attitudes monitored the general public's attitudes toward and interest in science and technology. In addition, the survey assessed levels of literacy and understanding of scientific and environmental concepts and constructs, how scientific knowledge and information were acquired, attentiveness to public policy issues, and computer access and usage. Since 1979, the survey was administered at regular intervals (occurring every two or three years), producing 11 cross-sectional surveys through 2001. Data for Part 1 (Survey of Public Attitudes Multiple Wave Data) were comprised of the survey questionnaire items asked most often throughout the 22-year survey series and account for approximately 70 percent of the original questions asked. Data for Part 2, General Social Survey Subsample Data, combine the 1983-1999 Survey of Public Attitudes data with a subsample from the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) (GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEYS, 1972-2002: [CUMULATIVE FILE] [ICPSR 3728]) and focus solely on levels of education and computer access and usage. Variables for Part 1 include the respondents' interest in new scientific or medical discoveries and inventions, space exploration, military and defense policies, whether they voted in a recent election, if they had ever contacted an elected or public official about topics regarding science, energy, defense, civil rights, foreign policy, or general economics, and how they felt about government spending on scientific research. Respondents were asked how they received information concerning science or news (e.g., via newspapers, magazines, or television), what types of television programming they watched, and what kind of magazines they read. Respondents were asked a series of questions to assess their understanding of scientific concepts like DNA, probability, and experimental methods. Respondents were also asked if they agreed with statements concerning science and technology and how they affect everyday living. Respondents were further asked a series of true and false questions regarding science-based statements (e.g., the center of the Earth is hot, all radioactivity is manmade, electrons are smaller than atoms, the Earth moves around the sun, humans and dinosaurs co-existed, and human beings developed from earlier species of animals). Variables for Part 2 include highest level of math attained in high school, whether the respondent had a postsecondary degree, field of highest degree, number of science-based college courses taken, major in college, household ownership of a computer, access to the World Wide Web, number of hours spent on a computer at home or at work, and topics searched for via the Internet. Demographic variables for Parts 1 and 2 include gender, race, age, marital status, number of people in household, level of education, and occupation.
  • Methods

    ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection: Created online analysis version with question text..
  • Table of Contents


    • DS0: Study-Level Files
    • DS1: Survey of Public Attitudes Multiple Wave Data
    • DS2: General Social Survey Subsample Data
Temporal Coverage
  • 1979 / 2001
    Time period: 1979--2001
Geographic Coverage
  • United States
Sampled Universe
All households with a working telephone in the contiguous United States containing at least one noninstitutionalized English or Spanish speaker aged 18 years or over.
Data were collected through a disproportionate stratified sampling frame utilizing a list-assisted random-digital dial (RDD) design within strata. Respondents within households were selected using the most recent birthday selection method.
Collection Mode
  • Part 1 contains a weight variable (WT5) that corrects for nonresponse and oversamples males and Blacks.

2006-01-18 File CB4029.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads. Funding insitution(s): National Science Foundation (03-212-SRS-0086139, and ASA/SRS-NSF 0209274).
This version of the study is no longer available on the web. If you need to acquire this version of the data, you have to contact ICPSR User Support (
Alternative Identifiers
  • 4029 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Is previous version of
    DOI: 10.3886/ICPSR04029.v1
  • Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. Gender in STEM Education: A Data-Driven Learning Guide. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. 2009.
    • ID: 10.3886/genderSTEM (DOI)
  • Losh, Susan C.. Generation versus aging, and education, occupation, gender and ethnicity effects in U.S. digital divides. 2009 Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy.Atlanta, GA. 2009.
    • ID: 10.1109/ACSIP.2009.5367820 (DOI)
  • Losh, Susan C.. Pseudoscience Beliefs. Public Opinion and Polling Around the World: A Historical Encyclopedia.Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. 2004.
  • Losh, Susan C.. Science. Public Opinion and Polling Around the World: A Historical Encyclopedia.Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. 2004.
  • Losh, Susan Carol. Gender, educational, and occupational digital gaps: 1983-2002. Social Science Computer Review.22, (2), 152-166.2004.
    • ID: 10.1177/0894439303262557 (DOI)
  • Miller, Jon D.. Public understanding of, and attitudes toward, scientific research: What we kow and what we need to know. Public Understanding of Science.13, (3), 273-294.2004.
    • ID: 10.1177/0963662504044908 (DOI)
  • Losh, Susan Carol. Gender and educational digital chasms in computer and Internet access and use over time: 1983-2000. IT and Society.1, (4), 73-86.2003.
  • Losh, Susan Carol. Gender and educational digital gaps: 1983-2000. IT and Society.1, (5), 56-71.2003.
  • Losh, Susan Carol, Tavani, Christopher M., Njoroge, Rose, Wilke, Ryan, McAuley, Michael. What does education really do? Educational dimensions and pseudoscience support in the American general public, 1979-2001. Skeptical Inquirer.27, (5), 30-35.2003.
  • National Science Board. Science and Engineering Indicators -- 2002, Volume 1. NSB-02-1, Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation . 2002.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Nisbet, Matthew C., Scheufele, Dietram A., Shanahan, James, Moy, Patricia, Brossard, Dominique, Lewenstein, Bruce V.. Knowledge, Reservations, or Promise? A Media Effects Model for Public Perceptions of Science and Technology. Communication Research.29, (5), 584-608.2002.
    • ID: 10.1177/009365002236196 (DOI)
  • Losh, Susan Carol. x: How gender and education influence basic science knowledge and psuedoscience beliefs: 1988-1999. Public Perspective.12, (5), 24-26.2001.
  • Miller, Jon D.. The development of civic scientific literacy in the United States. Science, Technology, and Society: A Sourcebook on Research and Practice.New York : Kluwer Academic/Plenum. 2000.
  • Miller, J.D., Kimmel, L.. The United States Science & Engineering Indicators Studies CD-ROM: User's Manual. Chicago: Chicago Academy of Sciences. 1999.
  • Gerbner, G., Linson, B.. Images of scientists in prime time television: A report for the U.S. Department of Commerce. . 1998.
  • Miller, Jon D.. The measurement of civic scientific literacy. Public Understanding of Science.7, (3), 203-223.1998.
    • ID: 10.1088/0963-6625/7/3/001 (DOI)
  • Miller, Jon D., Kimmel, L.. Science and technology: Public attitudes and public understanding. Science and Engineering Indicators: 1998.Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation . 1998.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Miller, J.D., Prado, R., Niwa, F.. Public Attitudes toward Science and Technology: A Comparative Study of the European Union, the United States, Japan, and Canada. Madrid, Spain: BBV Foundation. 1997.
  • Anonymous. Adults score low in science literacy. Science News.149, (23), 367 -1996.
  • Pifer, Linda K.. Exploring the gender gap in young adults' attitudes about animal research. Society and Animals.4, (1), 37-52.1996.
    • ID: 10.1163/156853096X00034 (DOI)
  • Miller, Jon D.. The Scientifically Illiterate. American Demographics.9, (6), 27-31.1987.
  • Miller, Jon D.. Scientific Literacy: A Conceptual and Empirical Review. Daedalus.112, (2), 29-48.1983.
  • Prewitt, Kenneth. The public and science policy. Science, Technology and Human Values.7, (39), 5-14.1982.
    • ID: 10.1177/016224398200700203 (DOI)
  • Miller, Jon D., Barrington Thomas M.. The acquisition and retention of scientific information. Journal of Communication.31, (2), 178-189.1981.
    • ID: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1981.tb01240.x (DOI)

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 6 | Registration Date: 2015-06-15

Miller, Jon D.; Kimmel, Linda; ORC Macro (2005): National Science Foundation Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology, 1979-2001: [United States]. Archival Version. Version: v0. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.