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Press Release

SCIENCE AND SOCIETY - EUROPEAN ATTITUDES AND VIEWS

According to a new EU-wide survey, European citizens are quite interested in science, but they say that information is poor and not necessarily of quality. Their preferred information source is television.

 'SCIENCE IS MORE INTERESTING THAN POLITICS AND ECONOMICS'

Among the EU- citizens surveyed, 45.3% declare to be rather interested in science and technology issues, whereas less find politics (41.3%) and economics (37.9%) interesting. Culture (56.9%) and sports (54.3%) rate first. People’s interest in science is strongly correlated with their age and place of living. Countries most interested are Sweden (64.3%), Denmark (60.9%) and the Netherlands (58.9) – which are the countries that register the greatest number of higher education graduates in Europe. Gender also plays a significant role: far fewer women than men are interested in science (39.6% as opposed to 51.5%).

 'MEDICINE AND THE ENVIRONMENT COME FIRST'

The scientific developments that most capture Europeans' attention are, traditionally, medicine (60.3%) and, more recently, the environment (51.6%), which is partly considered as a public health issue. The interest in environmental issues is highest in the case of women (68.4%) and the elderly European (69.5% of those over 55 years of age). It is also more widespread in southern and central Europe (Italy - 76.3%, Luxembourg - 71.8%, France - 69.5% and Greece - 67.3%). Mentioned by 27.9% of respondents, the scientific developments regarding the Internet come in the third place, encountering a high popularity among young (53.8% among the 15 to 24 year olds) and highly qualified people (37.8% of those who have studied).

 'I AM POORLY INFORMED ABOUT SCIENCE'

Two thirds of European citizens asked consider themselves poorly informed, and a significant proportion (14.7%) would be interested in receiving more information. However, 45.8% of citizens surveyed declare to be neither informed nor interested in scientific issues.

 'I WATCH TELEVISION TO GET SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION'

Television is mentioned as the most important source of scientific information by 60.3% of interviewees. TV comes first in all Member States. The printed press ranks second, followed by the radio (27.3%), schools and universities (22.3%), scientific journals (20.1%) and the Internet (16.7%). The best educated more often read the general press (41.5%) whereas the youth and students prefer using the Internet (29.1% and 33.1% respectively). Regarding the quality of the information provided, 36.5% of Europeans agree that "scientific and technical developments are presented too negatively". However, more people (39.1%) disapprove of this statement. More than half of the surveyed (53.3%) believe that journalists covering science do not have the necessary knowledge or training.

These statistics are the results of interviews carried out with 16000 citizens from the 15 EU Member States at the initiative of the European Commission DG Research. The full survey is published in the December EUROBAROMETER report 'Europeans, Science and Technology'. All results, as well as the new Commission Action Plan 'Science and Society',
can be consulted at: http://ec.europa.eu/research/press/2001/pr0612en.html  

For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact: 
Michel Claessens,
 
Information and Communication Unit, 
Research DG
Tel: +32-2-295.99.71 Fax:+32-2-295.82.20  
E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

              

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