A recent survey conducted by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School indicates that 80 percent of the U.S. population doesn't have a clear understanding of what nanotechnology is. However, nine out of ten hold an opinion about its benefits and risks.
Despite most U.S. consumers already have purchased at least one product that includes a nanotechnology device in its general meaning, the majority of Americans have not been confronted with this term so far. According to a web-based survey with 1800 participants, more than 80% of U.S. respondents had heard "little" or "nothing at all" about nanotechnology. Interestingly, the term nanotechnology apparently holds enough information in itself to allow people to form an opinion about it: More than 90% of respondents held an opinion about whether nanotechnology's benefits would outweigh its risks, even when supplied with no additional information, the authors of the study said.
The U.S. public's perception of nanotechnology is up for grabs. It could divide along the lines of nuclear power, global warming and other contentious environmental issues absent a major public education and engagement effort by industry, government, civic groups and scientists. People who know little or nothing about 'nanotechnology' instantly react in an emotionally charged way to the concept, and their opinions divide along cultural lines as they learn more about it," according to Dan Kahan, a professor at Yale Law School.