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Biomedical Literacy in the United States: Exploring the borderland between science and citizenship
Unformatted Document Text:  8 number of college-level science sources taken are highly correlated, but they are not the same and sometimes (as in this model) predict different sets of subsequent attitudes and behaviors. In addition to the structural and background variables discussed above, the literature suggests two additional hypotheses that are worthy of investigation. Many communication scholars believe that current media use and information acquisition activities account for a substantial portion of the attitudes and – to a lesser extent – knowledge of adults about various public policy issues. In a longitudinal study, we would expect the acquisition and retention of information about a set of public policy issues to be related to prior interest, and we would expect that a regular flow of new information would stimulate additional interest in a given set of issues. In this cross-sectional analysis, we place current subject-relevant information acquisition prior to biomedical literacy and attentiveness to biomedical policy (see Figure 2). An index of subject-relevant information acquisition is utilized in this model (Miller, 2001). A confirmatory factor analysis found that the following information acquisition activities constitute a single factor: (1) buying a science book within the previous year, (2) visiting a science museum one or more times during the previous year, (2) owning a home computer, (4) using the Web to search for science or health information, (5) visiting a public library during the previous year, (6) reading a science magazine most of the time, (7) reading a newsmagazine most of the time, and (8) watching one or more science television shows frequently. Using factor scores, a zero-to-100 index was constructed and then divided into five approximately equal ordinal classes. Another hypothesis is that attentiveness to a specific issue area such as biomedical research is associated with a general interest in public policy. This line of argument accepts the specialization of issue attentiveness into narrower clusters of topics, but suggests that, in many cases, an individual who is attentive to one specific issue cluster may have a higher general interest in all matters political than other adults who do not become attentive to any specific issue. To explore this hypothesis, a measure of general political interest was constructed from a combination of attentiveness to economic policy, agricultural policy, foreign policy, defense policy, and local school issue and a more general measure of “interest in news and current events.” Approximately 24 percent of respondents in the 1999 Science and Engineering

Authors: Miller, Jon. and Kimmel, Linda.
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number of college-level science sources taken are highly correlated, but they are not the same and
sometimes (as in this model) predict different sets of subsequent attitudes and behaviors.
In addition to the structural and background variables discussed above, the literature suggests two
additional hypotheses that are worthy of investigation. Many communication scholars believe that current
media use and information acquisition activities account for a substantial portion of the attitudes and – to
a lesser extent – knowledge of adults about various public policy issues. In a longitudinal study, we would
expect the acquisition and retention of information about a set of public policy issues to be related to prior
interest, and we would expect that a regular flow of new information would stimulate additional interest
in a given set of issues. In this cross-sectional analysis, we place current subject-relevant information
acquisition prior to biomedical literacy and attentiveness to biomedical policy (see Figure 2).
An index of subject-relevant information acquisition is utilized in this model (Miller, 2001). A
confirmatory factor analysis found that the following information acquisition activities constitute a single
factor: (1) buying a science book within the previous year, (2) visiting a science museum one or more
times during the previous year, (2) owning a home computer, (4) using the Web to search for science or
health information, (5) visiting a public library during the previous year, (6) reading a science magazine
most of the time, (7) reading a newsmagazine most of the time, and (8) watching one or more science
television shows frequently. Using factor scores, a zero-to-100 index was constructed and then divided
into five approximately equal ordinal classes.
Another hypothesis is that attentiveness to a specific issue area such as biomedical research is
associated with a general interest in public policy. This line of argument accepts the specialization of
issue attentiveness into narrower clusters of topics, but suggests that, in many cases, an individual who is
attentive to one specific issue cluster may have a higher general interest in all matters political than other
adults who do not become attentive to any specific issue. To explore this hypothesis, a measure of general
political interest was constructed from a combination of attentiveness to economic policy, agricultural
policy, foreign policy, defense policy, and local school issue and a more general measure of “interest in
news and current events.” Approximately 24 percent of respondents in the 1999 Science and Engineering


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