Economic crisis and public attitudes toward science: A study of regional differences in Spain

Luis Sanz-Menéndez, Gregg G. Van Ryzin

Although there is little theory about the effects of economic conditions on public support for science and technology (S&T), some evidence suggests that an economic crisis could produce a decline in support for S&T because of more pressing priorities, such as jobs and social services. But the public may also view S&T as a strategic pathway out of an economic slump. We test these competing hypotheses employing two national surveys from Spain, implemented before (2006) and after (2010) the onset of a severe economic crisis. We find that, in regions hit hardest by the crisis (compared to less-affected regions), trust in the benefits of S&T increased substantially, as did general public interest in S&T. Similarly, residents of the hardest-hit regions were more likely after the crisis to choose S&T (out of a list of policy areas) as a priority for government, and somewhat more likely to express support for increases in government S&T spending. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.

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