Since the advent of the digital age, an ever-increasing share of Americans has turned to the Internet to read the news. A recent study by Reuters reported that online outlets have surpassed television to become the number one news source in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, the share of Americans for whom Facebook and Twitter serve as a source of news is also continuing to rise.
With the Internet becoming the primary source of information for most, new avenues have emerged for people to share their opinions on any given event or issue. Online comments have replaced letters to the editor as a means for people to offer their take on an issue. The liveliest debates are taking place in the comments section of popular news sources.
Unfortunately, online commenting suffers from what is described as ‘participation inequality’. When researchers examined comments in online news forums, they found that the discussion was shaped by the 90-9-1 rule: 90% of people are ‘lurkers’ who read the news but never comment, 9% will comment infrequently, and 1% of the audience comments heavily, making up the bulk of the discussion.
(Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
When you read a news story or discussion where animal research is mentioned, don’t be shy about sharing your pro-research viewpoint. When people understand the goals of scientific research using animals, they overwhelmingly support it. If scientific and medical progress are important to you, say so. Too often, especially in mainstream, non-scientific publications, we read about an amazing experimental therapy or drug discovery that utilized animal research and the only comments are people decrying the ‘exploitation’ of the animals. While they represent a minority viewpoint, such opinions are outsized in the comments sections of many publications. By adding your voice, you remind other readers about the value of biomedical research. Don’t be afraid to explain your opinion, either. Remember – most people are unaware of the strict regulations governing animal experimentation and have never heard of the Three Rs. Most people would also be surprised to see the animals behind the top 25 most commonly prescribed drugs.
The important thing to remember is that most people support animal research, overwhelmingly so when it is explained. Our polling indicates that support jumps to over 75% when we explain the specific goals of animal research, like vaccines for infectious diseases, cures for terminal illnesses and new treatments for degenerative brain diseases. By adding your voice to the comments and clarifying why you support such research, you stand a good chance of changing people’s anti-research opinions. The more truthful information that is shared about animal research, the greater public support grows.