A group of researchers has released the first results of a large survey of those who participated in and supported last year’s March for Science. Some social scientists say the analysis is fundamentally flawed and reflects poorly on an organization that champions scientific rigor. March organizers acknowledge the survey’s limitations but say it has provided them with important insights into what motivates their supporters.
The volunteer organizers of the 22 April 2017 march, an ambitious experiment in global science advocacy, were eager to learn all they could about the more than 1 million people who had participated. So, 6 weeks after the event, they notified their more than 200,000 supporters that a survey developed by researchers at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia, was available online. The 72-question survey asked for demographic information, as well as why respondents had marched and what they thought about government policies and public attitudes toward science.
Last week, days before the second annual march on 14 April, the GMU researchers posted the results. A solid majority of the 20,000 respondents said they thought the country was headed in the wrong direction, a situation almost all blamed on the policies of President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress. Their biggest fears were that those government officials would disregard scientific evidence and cut research funding, although only about half thought the march would forestall either action.