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What Americans Know About Science

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Science knowledge levels remain strongly tied to education; Republicans and Democrats are about equally knowledgeable

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans can answer at least some questions about science concepts – most can correctly answer a question about antibiotics overuse or the definition of an “incubation period,” for example. But other concepts are more challenging; fewer Americans can recognize a hypothesis or identify that bases are the main components of antacids.

The survey, conducted Jan. 7 to 21, 2019, takes stock of the degree to which the public shares a common understanding of science facts and processes in an era of easy access to information and sometimes-intense debate over what information is true and false.

Americans’ knowledge of specific facts connected with life sciences and earth and other physical sciences varies, of course. About eight-in-ten (79%) correctly identify that antibiotic resistance is a major concern about the overuse of antibiotics. A similar share (76%) know an incubation period is the time during which someone has an infection but is not showing symptoms.

The most challenging question in the set: What are the main components of antacids that help relieve an overly acidic stomach? About four-in-ten correctly answer bases (39%).

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