Informing the Public

  • February 04, 2019

Editor’s Recommendation

Knowledge Must Serve the Common Good

by Rebecca W. Rimel

Fall 2016

Some aquarium fish, like this pale pink tetra, are being modified to glow through the engineering of a fluorescence gene.

American views on news sources

In September, the Pew Research Center released an update to its annual research examining the share of Americans who get news on various social media platforms. The report found that 68 percent of U.S. adults say they at least occasionally get news on social media, though 57 percent of that group expect the news they see there to be largely inaccurate. Republicans are more negative about the news on social media than Democrats. Among Republican social media news consumers, 72 percent say they expect the news they see there to be inaccurate, compared with 46 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents. Even among those Americans who say they prefer to get news on social media over other platforms (such as print, TV, or radio), a substantial portion (42 percent) express this skepticism. And while 42 percent of those Democrats who get news on social media say it has helped their understanding of current events, 24 percent of Republicans say the same.

Women at the top

The Pew Research Center published a report in September finding a majority of Americans say they would like to see more women in top leadership positions in both politics and business. But most say men still have an easier path to the top and that women must do more to prove their worth. There is, however, a wide partisan gap on the issue, including on the factors that are holding women back. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more than twice as likely as Republicans and those who lean Republican to say there are too few women in high political offices (79 percent versus 33 percent). While 64 percent of Democrats say gender discrimination is a major reason why women are underrepresented in these positions, only 30 percent of Republicans agree. There are also wide gender gaps in views about women in leadership. About 7 in 10 women say there are too few women in high political offices and in top executive business positions; about half of men say the same. And women are far more likely than men to see structural barriers and uneven expectations holding women back from these positions. About 7 in 10 women—versus about half of men—say a major reason why women are underrepresented in top positions in politics and business is that they must do more to prove themselves.

Americans weigh in on genetic engineering

The Pew Research Center released a report in August that found that Americans’ views on genetic engineering of animals vary widely. Presented with five scenarios that are currently available, in development, or considered possible in the future, Americans provide majority support only for the two that have clear potential to pre-empt or ameliorate human illness. Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) believe that genetically engineering mosquitoes to prevent their reproduction and therefore the spread of some mosquito-borne diseases would be an appropriate use of technology. A 57 percent majority considers it appropriate to genetically engineer animals to grow organs or tissues that could be used for humans who need a transplant. But other uses of animal biotechnology are less acceptable to the public, including the creation of more nutritious meat for human consumption (43 percent say this is appropriate) or restoring an extinct animal from a closely related species (32 percent say this is appropriate). And one application that is already commercially available is largely met with resistance: Just 21 percent of Americans consider it an appropriate use of technology to genetically engineer aquarium fish to glow using a fluorescence gene.