Nanotechnology awareness may be low, but opinions are strong

(Nanowerk News) Awareness of nanotechnology is still low, but there are some surprising differences in opinion. Perhaps not surprisingly, reports of having heard at least a little about nanotechnology were significantly higher among all sub-65 age groups (ranging from 37% to 46%) than among those in the 65+ age group (26%). However, those older Americans aware of nanotechnology were more optimistic about its potential, with a stronger likelihood than any other age group to indicate a belief that the potential benefits of nanotechnology outweigh the risks (58%, vs. 32%-36% among other age groups).
These are among the results of The Harris Poll of 2,467 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over) surveyed online between June 18 and June 25, 2012 by Harris Interactive (
There were also significant differences in nanotechnology awareness by region, with Midwesterners (44%) significantly more likely than those from other regions (East [33%], South [36%] or West [31%]) to report knowing "nothing at all" about nanotechnology (although percentages hearing at least a little were roughly equal). There were no significant differences in the optimism/pessimism (among those aware of nanotechnology) expressed by region.
Differences also exist regarding where people have heard of nanotechnology, and in what areas people would be most interested to see it applied. Among those who had heard at least a little about nanotechnology, the Internet was by far the most cited source of information (54%). This was true across all age groups and most regions, with Internet sources (44%) and TV shows (45%) roughly even among Easterners.
Older U.S. adults familiar with nanotechnology were significantly more likely than other age segments to cite television news programs (46%-52% among those 50+, vs. 26%-36% among younger groups) or newspapers (48% among those 65+, vs. 13%-22% among younger age groups), while those ages 18-29 who are familiar with nanotechnology were more likely than any other segment to have heard about nanotechnology via friends and family (36%, vs. 14%-19% among other age groups).
Among those who have at least heard of nanotechnology, interest was strongest for seeing it applied to healthcare (with 63% selecting it as one of the areas where they would most like to see nanotechnology applied), energy production (59%), environmental clean-up (55%) and computers (54%). Overall interest was lowest for nanotechnology applications within the clothing (12%), food (13%) and skincare (15%) fields.
Older Americans aware of nanotechnology were significantly more interested than other age groups in seeing it applied to healthcare (80%-83% among those ages 50+, vs. 42%-66% among younger groups), energy production (63%-74% among those 40+, vs. 43%-53% among those under 40), whereas younger adults familiar with nanotechnology were more interested in seeing nanotechnology applied to clothes (16%-19% among those 18-39, vs. 4%-9% among those 40+) and skincare (20% and 10%-12%, respectively) than the older groups. The youngest age group was also significantly more likely than other groups to select "None of these" (15% among those 18-29, vs. 2%-6% among those 30+).
Regional differences in preferred applications (again among those aware of nanotechnology) were less pronounced for most areas addressed; however, Midwesterners were significantly less interested in applying nanotechnology to food than those within the other three regions.
So What?
"Though it may initially seem counterintuitive, it actually makes sense that those aware of nanotechnology within the 65+ age group tend to believe that the benefits of nanotechnology will outweigh the risks, as the prevalence of worry in general tends to decline with age," said Dr. Kathleen Eggleson, leader of the Nano Impacts Intellectual Community at the University of Notre Dame. "Older Americans also have firsthand experience with the emergence of many different technologies that have brought new benefits to their lives."
"These data may help stakeholders nationwide make informed decisions, plan investments, and tailor education, advocacy, and marketing efforts in the nanotechnology field," said Peter Tomanovich, Research Director, Health Care at Harris Interactive.
Source: Harris Interactive
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