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Town Hall: Obama and Romney Talked about Science (a Little)

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Source: League of Women Voters

If you blinked you missed the fact that President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney dealt with a few science issues in the Town Hall debate this week at Hofstra University. So, for a change of pace from our ongoing weekly look at one of’s 14 questions about the “Top American Science Questions,” I’ve pulled together some quick summaries by our staff to highlight specific differences in science-grounded policies between the candidates.


Of course, an entire live debate devoted to the scientific foundations of proposed presidential policies would have been ideal – particularly since it would have allowed for follow-up questions. And that was’s original goal. But at least some science is peeking through all the rehearsed replies and talking points.



The second presidential debate started with a question about education and jobs for the future. Read what the candidates said about investing in science and math education and how Scientific American graded their responses (scroll down):


On Tuesday evening Governor Romney said, “I’ll get America and North America energy independent. I’ll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses.”


Here’s the follow-up question that should have been asked:  Is energy independence feasible?


Judge the differences in the candidates’  responses on energy policy and how Scientific American graded their answers–including the feasibility of energy independence.



When asked about immigration issues at the town hall debate, Governor Romney said, “I also think that we should give visas to people — green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A.”


Read more about how Governor Romney would change immigration policies to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in innovation and how Scientific American graded Romney’s and President Obama’s responses to the innovation issue.


Fielding a question at the second presidential debate about generating new jobs for the next generation, President Obama said, “I want high wage, high skill jobs. That’s why we have to emphasize manufacturing. That’s why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing. That’s why we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the best science and research in the world.”


Both Obama and Romney provided written answers on 14  science questions – read their responses on innovation and science research and the future and how Scientific American graded there responses here and here (scroll down).

Read the candidates’ answers to all 14 questions in full at either or Election 2012 button used under Creative Commons license BY 2.0.

About the Author: Christine Gorman is the editor in charge of health and medicine features for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Follow on Twitter @cgorman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Horus6 6:05 pm 10/19/2012

    Sci American; “Romney says directly that NASA does not need more money to be successful, which gives him an edge in feasibility.”

    NASA currently receives about 1/2 of one percent of the national budget. I fail to see how claiming this is sufficient to maintain a successful and progressive space program gives him “an edge in feasibility”. Increased funding would help create new jobs and new technologies as well as enable America to become a more active participant in manned space exploration. Even so small an increase as an additional 1/2% could make a huge difference!

    Link to this
  2. 2. M Tucker 7:10 pm 10/19/2012

    A science debate with questions from the general public…well Romney uses the fact that gasoline prices are determined by the economy as a laugh line. Much of the public is woefully uniformed. So I’m thinking questions from the public would be much more about what the public doesn’t know and less about what the candidate’s positions are. Maybe SA staff would get a laugh out of it though. In the actual debate the moderator said she did have a question from one of the “climate people” but she didn’t get around to it. That lets you know how important the moderator thinks climate change is.

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  3. 3. CBacon 7:50 pm 10/19/2012

    I agree with above, much or even most of the general public are terribly removed from a majority of anything regarding scientific subjects. I would be willing to bet that of those who have heard of the LHC, some would not even know what it is, and most would probably not know the basic details of how it works.
    I would depend upon those people who know a thing or two on a given subject to ask the questions regarding it.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:29 am 10/20/2012

    I’m biased, because I’m a Green Party/Communist Party type of guy, but I saw Romney lie outright over 30 times and proclaim policies that are directly against science and scientific thought. Scary stuff.

    Link to this
  5. 5. priddseren 11:42 am 10/20/2012

    What an odd article. The only opinion or question asked here would seem to be about the feasibility energy independence. Totally feasible. North America has more than enough resources to be energy independent. There is Plenty of oil, gas and coal. Vast spaces of land to use for biofuels. Vast spaces of land and ocean to develop wind, solar, current and other technologies to directly use what the sun produces, places for thermal and hydro power as well as nuclear fuel.

    The one and only reason North America and specifically America is not energy independent is the massive amount regulation and taxation imposed by a government of parasites wanting money and power and they are using industries like energy to do it.

    Another comment mentioned fuel prices being dependent on economies. Sorry, when up to 75% of the fuel cost at the pump is government taxation from the tax on what comes out of the ground, to the taxes on shipping, processing, storage and ridiculous additives and on and on(the BBC published a study on this) the gasoline prices are directly related to the inflation caused by government. Electricity in California from the Utilities has a 400% tax on any power produced over 2 KW, again government induced inflation.
    I have solar panels on my house. Leased because of government controls making it too expensive to purchase. The problem? Well the Feds make it illegal to hook leased solar panels up to anything other than the Grid. If a storm takes out Edison in my area, my panels are cut off as well, even though they could work. You want a battery bank or to make yourself independent, you wont be doing that with a lease. There are hundreds of examples like this, ridiculous laws, taxes, how about organizations, such as if you have a farm in the midwest with an oil well, you cant just pump oil and sell it on the market, you must go through an association set up across states, which is controlled by politicians and oil companies.

    Get the government pillaging out of everything and energy independence is easily achieved because we can start to use what we have and the money would be available to develop better ways to do something like ocean currents.

    Disagree with the NASA comments. They dont need more money, like every other government agency, they waste and waste. For example, a few years ago, Boeing was contracted to build stuff as they normally are and one 700k device was accidentally marked for destruction to be thrown away. Boeing made the mistake yet hit NASA up for an additional 700k to replace it because “it wasnt in the contract” to not do that. When in the real world such an action would be too bad for boeing, they screwed up.
    However, I would rather see NASA have their budget doubled by removing all of the Union payments Obama made to his owners, remove the nationalization of GM and Chrysler and all the other nonsense he has been funding.

    Having consulted for a number of government agencies in the last 2 decades, two things seem consistent. The people running and operating various government activities seem to have no clue about how to spend money on the best options. They typically spend 2 to 5 times more for everything. This can be what I have seen such as two different groups in the same agency buying the same software, even though they could have shared and saved 20 million. Seeing locations with 2 cafeterias because two different government unions refuse to share. The other consistent spending problem is it seems the government spends 50 to 80% of their money on managing the money.

    Glad they skipped the global warming scam.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 11:52 am 10/20/2012

    “”"Sorry, when up to 75% of the fuel cost at the pump is government taxation from the tax on what comes out of the ground, to the taxes on shipping, processing, storage and ridiculous additives and on and on(the BBC published a study on this) the gasoline prices are directly related to the inflation caused by government. “”"

    That only holds for Britain. Given that gasoline is currently a necessity good, higher gas prices are directly indicative of a resurging economy. They are also related to oil supply (i.e. how much OPEC wants to squeeze us), but first and foremost to the economy.

    “”"Glad they skipped the global warming scam.”"”

    As I’ve said before, saying that makes you look stupid.

    “”"The other consistent spending problem is it seems the government spends 50 to 80% of their money on managing the money. “”"

    Evidence? They spend most of it on tanks that the Pentagon doesn’t even want.

    Link to this

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