University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Science in Society: Re-evaluating the Deficit Model of Public Attitudes

Sturgis, Patrick and Allum, Nick (2004) Science in Society: Re-evaluating the Deficit Model of Public Attitudes Public Understanding of Science, 13 (1). pp. 55-74.


Download (206kB)


The ‘deficit model’ of public attitudes towards science has led to controversy over the role of scientific knowledge in explaining lay people’s attitudes towards science. The most sustained critique has come from what we refer to as the ‘contextualist’ perspective. In this view, people’s understanding of the ways in which science is embedded within wider political, economic and regulatory settings is fundamental for explaining their attitudes towards science. Most work adopting this perspective has relied on qualitative case studies as empirical evidence. In this paper we challenge the de facto orthodoxy that has connected the deficit model and contextualist perspectives with quantitative and qualitative research methods respectively. We simultaneously test hypotheses from both theoretical approaches using quantitative methodology. We use data from the 1996 British Social Attitudes Survey to investigate the interacting effects of different domains of scientific and contextual knowledge on public attitudes toward science. The results point to the clear importance of knowledge as a determinant of attitudes toward science. However, in contrast to the rather simplistic deficit model that has traditionally characterised discussions of this relationship, this analysis highlights the complex and interacting nature of the knowledge-attitude interface.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Sturgis, Patrick
Allum, Nick
Date : 1 January 2004
DOI : 10.1177/0963662504042690
Additional Information : The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal Public Understanding of Science, 13 (1) 55-74, 2004, © SAGE Publications Ltd 2004 and can be accessed from Public Understanding of Science on SAGE Journals Online. Click here for a list of Patrick Sturgis's publications and here for a list of Nick Allum's publications.
Depositing User : Mr Adam Field
Date Deposited : 27 May 2010 14:43
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 14:02

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800