US Presidential Candidates Answer Science, Engineering, and Environmental Questions

Presidential science debate

Three of the four major candidates for United States president have responded to America’s Top 20 Presidential Science, Engineering, Technology, Health and Environmental Questions. The nonprofit advocacy groupĀ ScienceDebate.org has posted their responses online at http://sciencedebate.org/20answers. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Jill Stein had all responded as of press time, and the group was awaiting responses from Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. (Individual questions’ answers can be jumped to by appending “#1” through “#20” to the link.)

On August 10, a blue-ribbon coalition of fifty-six leading U.S. nonpartisan organizations, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, called on U.S. Presidential candidates to address the questions, and encouraged journalists and voters to press the candidates on them during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election season.

“Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters’ lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates’ views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values,” said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort. A 2015 national poll commissioned by ScienceDebate.org and Research!America revealed that a large majority of Americans (87%) say it is important that candidates for President and Congress have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues.

“Science is central to policies that protect public health, safety and the environment, from climate change to diet related diseases,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a consortium member. “Reporters as well as voters should use these statements on science to push the candidates for more details on how they intend on addressing these many societal challenges.”

The consortium crowd-sourced and refined hundreds of suggestions, then submitted “the 20 most important, most immediate questions” to the four Presidential campaigns, “along with an invitation to the candidates to answer them in writing and to discuss them on television,” said Otto. The questions and answers will be widely distributed to the science community, journalists, and the general public to help voters make well-informed decisions at the ballot box this November.

In both 2008 and 2012, Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney participated. This is important, says Otto, because “science is accelerating, and we are searching for a more robust way of incorporating it into our policy dialogue.”

“Ideally, the people seeking to govern a first-world country would have a basic understanding of everything from sustainable energy to environmental threats to evidence-based medicine,” observed the Des Moines Register in a recent editorial. “They would talk about these things… Imagine if the public — and debate moderators — pressured presidential candidates to talk about the country’s electrical grid or emerging disease threats instead of abortion and transgender bathrooms. Political discourse would be smarter. And the individuals who seek the highest office in the land might learn a few things, too.”

The list of organizations supporting the issue discussion is a who’s who of the American science enterprise.

Full list of organizational supporters of the ScienceDebate initiative

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