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National Science Foundation Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology, 1979-2006: [United States] (ICPSR 28368)

Principal Investigator(s): Miller, Jon D., Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research; Kimmel, Linda, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research; , ORC Macro; Smith, Tom, National Opinion Research Center; Losh, Susan Carol, Florida State University


The National Science Foundation (NSF) Surveys of Public Attitudes monitored the general public's attitudes toward and interest in science and technology. The survey assessed levels of literacy and understanding of scientific and environmental concepts and constructs such as DNA, probability, and experimental methods, 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 12 cross-sectional surveys through 2006. 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 kinds of magazines they read. They 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, etc.). Additional topics included 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 include gender, race, age, marital status, number of people in household, level of education, and occupation.

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Study Description


Miller, Jon D., Linda Kimmel, ORC Macro , Tom Smith, and Susan Carol Losh. National Science Foundation Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology, 1979-2006: [United States]. ICPSR28368-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2016-12-07. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR28368.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR28368.v1

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  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • Association for Institutional Research (AIR-SRS, 0086139)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF, 0139458 and 0532943)
  • American Statistical Association (ASA/nsf, 0209274)
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA, REC-0310268)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    attitudes, computer use, education, employment, government spending, information literacy, information sources, Internet, media use, museums, occupations, postsecondary education, public interest, public policy, science, science education, scientific research, scientists, technology

Smallest Geographic Unit:    Region

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1979--2006

Date of Collection:   

  • 1979
  • 1981
  • 1983
  • 1985
  • 1988
  • 1990
  • 1992
  • 1995
  • 1997
  • 1999
  • 2001
  • 2006

Unit of Observation:    individual

Universe:    All United States households 1981-2006 with landline telephones.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

This collection is related to ICPSR 4029 "National Science Foundation Surveys of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology, 1979-2001: [United States]".

For further information please see the National Science Foundation website.


Sample:    1979 and 2006: probability area cluster samples. 1981-2001: multistage random digit dialing.

Time Method:    Cross-sectional

Weight:    1979-2001: single combined weight gender ethnicity region 2006 General Social Survey - WTSSALL (see Appendix A of the General Social Survey codebook, ICPSR #36319, for additional information).

Mode of Data Collection:    face-to-face interview, telephone interview

Response Rates:    Response rates ranged from 51 percent of those actually contacted (2001) to over 70 percent in the earlier surveys and in 2006.

Extent of Processing:   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:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   2016-12-07



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