Despite their skepticism, a majority (91 percent) said it's vitally important the United States maintain its world leadership role as other countries like China and India ramp up their science and technology investments, the poll commissioned by Research!America found.
"A lackluster investment in science and innovation is driving fears among Americans about our world dominance in the years ahead," former Illinois Congressman and Research!America Chairman John E. Porter said.
"These concerns will likely increase unless policy makers take action to avoid serious consequences, such as a major loss of U.S. jobs, business, medical breakthroughs and output in innovation."
Americans are especially concerned about funding cuts to medical and health research, the poll found, with just 23 percent saying they consider the United States to be first in the world in medical and health research today.
More than half, 54 percent, said they think federal spending for medical and health research should be exempt from across-the-board cuts outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The poll was conducted online in March by JZ Analytics for Research!America with a sample size of more than 1,000 likely U.S. voters and a theoretical sampling error of 3.2 percentage points.