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Young Americans Have High Appreciation and Expectations for Science, but Misinformation Threatens the Future

Fifth year of 3M and Ipsos global survey reveals Americans want science to help solve for sustainability, health and STEM equity challenges

Young Americans Have High Appreciation and Expectations for Science, but Misinformation Threatens the Future

Fifth year of 3M and Ipsos global survey reveals Americans want science to help solve for sustainability, health and STEM equity challenges

Published 04-20-22

Submitted by 3M

Four students are seated at a table behind a laptop and with science experiments in front of them.

ST. PAUL, Minn., April 20, 2022 /CSRwire/ - The outlook for science is promising—especially among young Americans. Millennials and Gen Z have high appreciation for science and expect it will solve many of the world’s challenges, reports the 3M 2022 State of Science Index (SOSI). They’re significantly more likely than their older counterparts to say they expect to appreciate science more over the next five years (63% of Gen Z and Millennials, vs. 43% of Gen X and Baby Boomers).

The good news is Americans of all ages have exceptionally high trust in science (89% younger generations, 88% older generations1) and most say science is very important to their everyday lives (58% younger, 56% older). Many Americans also expect science to drive social impact, focusing on solutions for sustainability, health and STEM equity challenges.

“Every day, 3M employees work to unlock the power of people, ideas, and science to re-imagine what’s possible and build what’s next,” said Mike Roman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, 3M. “The deep level of trust that younger generations have in science and the increasing role it plays in their lives is a very promising sign for the future. 3M will continue to encourage and highlight trusted and diverse voices in science to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.”

Misinformation may be threatening scientific credibility
While most Americans have a strong positive sentiment towards science, research reveals they believe misinformation2 is widespread in the U.S., which may pose a threat to scientific credibility. Regardless of the subject, Americans say misinformation is prevalent on social media (92%) and traditional news (78%). Digging deeper, media platform and information sources matter: 72% of Americans trust science-based facts in traditional news, while only 37% trust science-based facts on social media. On a positive note, 86% of Americans trust scientists, and 82% want to hear more from scientists about their work. This presents an opportunity for scientists to directly communicate on news and social platforms.

As a company that advocates for science—and for truth in science—3M is partnering with the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest digital journalism association. 3M and ONA will collaborate on toolkits, training and recognition that will inspire and support journalists as they connect with their audiences about science and misinformation. Beginning in 2022, a new 3M Truth in Science Award will be presented at ONA’s annual Online Journalism Awards (OJAs), honoring excellence in digital journalism around the world. The call for submissions for the 2022 OJAs opens on May 5, 2022, and includes cash prizes.

“Access to rigorous science reporting is as important as ever to meet the challenges of these times,” said Irving Washington, executive director and chief executive officer of the Online News Association. “I am excited for ONA and 3M to lead in honoring and investing in science journalists worldwide who are rising to the occasion and delivering engaging and relevant news to serve their audiences.”

Addressing widespread misinformation is important because, according to SOSI, if we cannot trust news stories about science, Americans believe there will be consequences, including:

  • More public health crises (64%)
  • Greater division within society (60%)
  • An increase in the severity of climate change effects (51%)

Despite concerns about misinformation, Americans recognize that science plays an important role in driving social impact. Beyond the pandemic, Americans want science to prioritize solutions for clean water supply and sanitation (61%), air quality (53%), equal access to quality healthcare (50%) and the effects of climate change (48%). In fact, a desire to solve societal challenges may be the reason science is more important and more relevant to Americans now, than it was a few years ago. Today, more than half of Americans (58%) consider science to be very important to their everyday lives—compared to only 45% in 2019.

Climate change is getting personal
Climate change and its effects are showing up in personal ways for Americans. Most Americans are concerned they or a loved one may be displaced from where they live in the future due to extreme weather related to climate change (69%). This concern is amplified among younger generations and people of color, who are significantly more likely to share concerns about displacement (85% of Millennial Americans, 79% of Gen Z Americans, 79% of Black Americans and 76% of U.S. Hispanics).

Americans also report being more concerned today than they were a year ago about: intensifying natural disasters (66%), ocean plastics pollution (64%), climate change (63%), clean water supply (63%) and air pollution (59%). To address these concerns, top actions Americans believe corporations should prioritize for a more sustainable future are reducing waste created by facilities (55%), using recycled and renewable materials in products developed (53%), reducing the amount of plastic in products (51%) and using renewable energy sources to power their facilities (51%).

“As the impacts of climate change grow and expand, 3M will continue collaborating with business partners, governments and international organizations on science-based solutions,” said Gayle Schueller, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, 3M. “I’m proud that 3M announced increased commitments in 2021, including a $1 billion investment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030, achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050, and reduce water use 25% by 2030. We also set a goal to reduce our use of virgin fossil-based plastic by 125 million pounds (nearly 56,700 metric tons) by 2025.”

To date, 3M has reduced global water usage 10.7% and eliminated 19.7 million pounds of plastic waste. 3M’s absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions are down 72% since 2002 and the company is approaching 50% renewable electricity at all global sites well ahead of its 2025 goal.

DE&I in STEM needs significant work
Eighty percent of Americans believe there are barriers to students pursuing a STEM education. They identify access3 (72%), affordability (47%), and bias/prejudice toward women or minorities (37%)4 as the greatest barriers. And while nearly all Americans believe it is important to increase DE&I in STEM fields (87%), about two-thirds also agree that underrepresented minority groups do not receive equal access to STEM education (69%).

The implication of STEM education barriers is significant, as education lays the foundation for future career opportunities. When it comes to women and girls in STEM, most Americans believe:

  • More needs to be done to encourage and keep women/girls engaged in STEM education (84%)
  • Women are a source of untapped potential in the STEM workforce (82%)
  • Women are leaving STEM positions because they do not receive enough support (59%)
  • Women/girls are more discouraged from pursuing engineering than other science fields (59%)

Americans differ sharply in their acknowledgment of a racial/ethnic gap in the STEM workforce. While 56% of all Americans believe a racial/ethnic gap exists in the STEM workforce, responses diverge within demographics: 72% of Black Americans and 61% of U.S. Hispanics report seeing a gap versus only 49% of white Americans.

“Challenges around STEM equity begin at an early age for women and underrepresented minorities, and continue to snowball for those who choose to pursue STEM careers against all odds,” said Jayshree Seth, corporate scientist and chief science advocate, 3M. “Greater diversity in the scientific workforce—which often begins with a spark of STEM interest that ignites in early childhood—will lead to a greater positive impact on society.”

In 2021, 3M announced a global education-focused goal to advance economic equity by creating 5 million unique STEM and skilled trade learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025. To move toward this goal, 3M is joining forces with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to elevate the profile of women and minorities in STEM professions. Leveraging the Not the Science Type docuseries, NMSI's team created middle and high school discussion guides focused on career pathways, intersectionality and forging ahead despite the societal stereotypes of scientists. NMSI offered watch parties to spur dialogue for teachers and classrooms across the nation about inclusion in science, particularly in districts with high percentages of underrepresented student populations.

Improving health access and advancing health equity
According to 78% of Americans, improving access to quality healthcare is considered the number one priority for the U.S. to address, and Americans expect collaboration on solutions.

The top actions Americans believe corporations should prioritize (beyond their core business purpose) include working with the healthcare industry and other entities to improve the quality of care (48%) and collaborating to address the root causes of health issues within underserved and underrepresented communities (47%). The same holds true for advancements relating to social justice and change that Americans say society should prioritize over the next five years: ensuring equal access to quality healthcare regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, etc. (77%) and addressing the non-traditional root causes of health within underserved and underrepresented communities (e.g. where you live, access to transportation, access to grocery stores, etc.) (68%).

Beyond funding programs, 3M Health Care works to advance health equity by leveraging employee skills and 3M capabilities, like infrastructure and subject matter experts.  For example, 3M recently partnered with Get to Yes, a Minnesota coalition of 12 dental organizations working to expand critical dental care access for historically marginalized populations. The cross-sector partnership resulted in securing $120M funding for critical dental care access. On a global level, partnerships are leveraged through 3M Impact Health Care, a volunteer program which pairs 3M employees with community-based organizations, also working to advance health equity.

Additionally, 3M Health Care combines its deep health care expertise with an unparalleled breadth of technology platforms and solutions to transform outcomes for patients and professionals. This includes utilizing data analytical capabilities such as 3M™ Clinical Risk Groupings and social drivers of health data analytics to assess health care delivery system performance. 3M Health Care is in the process of developing partnerships with community-based organizations (CBOs) to utilize social drivers of health data analytics to identify neighborhoods that are most in need of community outreach.  This data helps CBOs maximize the efficiency of their operations and makes their efforts more effective.

According to SOSI respondents, healthcare is a key area where Americans are looking to science for solutions. Americans believe that beyond the current pandemic, science should prioritize cures for chronic diseases (68%), cancer treatments (57%), addressing mental and emotional health issues (56%), vaccines for future pandemics (50%) and addressing root causes/social drivers of health issues (45%).

Knowing the power of science to uncover solutions—and the many challenges our world is looking to science to solve—3M is proud to stand up for scientists and support the next generations of STEM talent. By advocating for truth in science reporting, innovating to develop science-based sustainability solutions and collaborating to help health care equity, 3M can help create a brighter future for the planet and its people.

1 Younger generations are inclusive of Gen Z and Millennials. Older generations are inclusive of Gen X and Baby Boomers.
Misinformation was defined in the survey as false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately meant to sway views/opinions.
3 Access NET includes “Lack of STEM classes offered in school”, “Not enough STEM educators/teachers” and “Lack of internet access”
Bias/prejudice NET includes “Bias/prejudice against girls pursuing STEM” and “Bias/prejudice against ethnic/racial minorities pursuing STEM”

About the State of Science Index
The 3M State of Science Index is an annual study conducted for 3M by global research firm Ipsos. It surveys the general populations of 17 countries. Now in its fifth year, the survey tracks the public image of science revealing trend lines over time as to how much people trust, respect and value science and the role it plays in their lives. For more information about the 2022 State of Science Index results, please visit 3M.com/ScienceIndex.

About 3M
At 3M (NYSE: MMM), we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily as our employees connect with customers all around the world. Learn more about 3M's creative solutions to global challenges at www.3M.com or on Twitter @3M or @3MNews.

Media Contacts
Robert Brittain, rbrittain@mmm.com
Lauren Cox, lcox@mmm.com

State of Science Survey Methodology
The 3M State of Science Index presents original, independent, and nationally representative (based on census demographics) research, conducted by global research firm Ipsos through a combination of online and offline interviews. The 2022 survey was conducted Sept. 27– Dec. 17, 2021, in 17 countries among 1,000 general population adults (18+) in each of the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, UAE, UK and the U.S. At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error is +/- 0.8 percentage points at the global, 17-country level and +/- 3.1 percentage points for each individual country. In the 2022 survey, an oversample was conducted in the U.S. sample to reach a total of 588 Gen Z (ages 16-24), 611 Black Americans, and 664 U.S. Hispanics to explore results in more granular ways.

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About 3M
At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily as our employees connect with customers all around the world. Learn more about 3M’s creative solutions to global challenges at www.3M.com or on Twitter @3M or @3MNews.

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