Attitudinal gaps: How experts and lay audiences form policy attitudes toward controversial science

Leona Yi Fan Su, Michael A. Cacciatore, Dominique Brossard, Elizabeth Corley, Dietram A. Scheufele, Michael A. Xenos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Input from scientific experts and lay audiences plays an important role in the realization of scientific advances and scientific policymaking. This study examines factors influencing expert and public attitudes toward the regulation of academic and commercial nanotechnology. Compared to scientific experts, lay publics are more likely to support the regulation of academic nanotechnology, with value predispositions playing a critical role in impacting such opinions. Among lay audiences, liberals and respondents reporting higher levels of religiosity were more likely to support regulation of both academic and commercial nanotechnology research, while those who paid greater attention to the media were more supportive of regulations for commercial research. Across the two groups, perceptions of risks relative to benefits consistently predicted attitudes toward regulation. Importantly, scientists rely less upon their value predispositions when forming regulatory attitudes, instead basing such attitudes on perceptions of regulatory impacts on scientific progress. The regulatory implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-206
Number of pages11
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Expert opinion
  • Media attention
  • Nanotechnology regulation
  • Public opinion
  • Risk perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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