Large majorities of the American public are aware of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), three federal agencies likely to be involved in the regulation of nanotechnology. However, job approval ratings and the public’s confidence in the FDA and USDA to maximize benefits and minimize risks of the products and industries they regulate are declining. Still, the public remains more confident in the federal government’s ability to play an oversight role and manage the risk associated with new advances in science and technology than it does in business.
Awareness of nanotechnology has not increased in the past year. Currently only 6% of the public has heard a lot about it and about two in five (42%) say they have heard nothing at all about it. Those who are very aware of nanotechnology are much more likely to have the initial impression that its benefits will outweigh its risks; whereas those who have heard very little or nothing about it are more likely to be unsure and to not express an opinion at all about the risks-versus-benefits tradeoff.
However, after hearing a brief description of the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology, unaware adults are significantly more likely to say that the risks will outweigh benefits.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.