How Americans consume science news and information

A study by Pew Research Center explores how citizens access science news.

Against a background of public debate about science policy (not least global climate change), Pew Research Center set out to understand how science news is accessed.

Key findings

  • 71% of participants say they are very or somewhat interested in science news
  • However, most of them encounter scientific news passively rather than seeking it out
  • 17% actively seek out scientific news at least a few times a week.  This small but active group are distinctive in how they use and evaluate science news.  They turn to more types of science news providers, are more likely to discuss science with others, and of those on social media are more likely to follow science pages or accounts.
  • Health and medicine is the most popular topic
  • Parents cite their children’s interests and activities as a trigger for seeking information
  • Most Americans rely on general news outlets for science news
  • Social media appears to play a modest role in how Americans stay informed about science
  • 44% of social media users so say they (at least sometimes) see science news they wouldn’t see elsewhere
  • However only 26% of social media users say they mostly trust the science posts they find on social media; 52% say they mostly distrust them
  • 18% of Americans engage with science through hobbies, interests and activities at home
  • 62% US adults have encountered science through informal institutions or events in the past year – including a park, a zoo or aquarium, a museum, science lecture or a tech centre

Notes on the research: over 4000 adults were surveyed about how they access science news; who they trust to provide this information; their participation in citizen science research and their consumption of STM-focused entertainment programming.