A majority of young Americans look to Thomas Edison as the greatest innovator of all time, and while nearly half of them say that a lack of innovation will hurt the U.S. economy, a majority say that there are obstacles that keep them from pursuing careers in fields that lead to innovation, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey released Wednesday.

The yearly Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which measures Americans’ perceptions about invention and innovation, found that 40 percent of respondents between the ages of 16 to 25 said that they couldn’t imagine life without new technology like smartphones and tablets, and 47 percent say that the nation’s economy will be negatively affected without innovation.

However 60 percent of young Americans believe that there are factors that could keep them from pursuing an education or career in science, technology, engineering or math- fields that yield most inventions.

Researchers are surprised that the overwhelming majority of young Americans, though part of the “Apple Generation,” chose Thomas Edison over Steve Jobs as the greatest visionary of all time.

About 52 percent of respondents chose Thomas Edison, 24 percent chose Steve Jobs, 10 percent chose Alexander Bell, 5 percent chose Marie Curie, 3 percent chose Facebook magnate Mark Zuckerberg, 2 percent chose Amelia Earhart and 2 percent chose Temple Grandin as the “greatest innovator of all time” in the survey.

Researchers said that although poll results revealed that education around the history of invention in today’s curriculum exists, the current education may not be strong enough to “inspire young Americans to make the leap into innovative fields themselves.”

Results from the survey indicated nearly half of respondents said that invention is not stressed enough in their school at 45 percent, and 28 percent said their education left them unprepared to enter technical fields.

Less than half of respondents said they used a drill or hand-held power tool, or made something out of raw materials in the past year.

Leigh Estabrooks, the Lemelson-MIT Program's invention education officer said survey results show that “few too many students have opportunity to learn and develop their inventive skills,” and she stressed that more attention from educators is needed to promote student engagement in hand-on invention activities are “critical” as well as a strong STEM education to produce more future innovators.

American youths say that more educational emphasis should be put on innovation as opposed to other fields like healthcare, energy and finance, according to the survey.

Respondents believe that there are a variety of ways to produce more future inventors by reforming learning experience both in and out of the classroom. For instance, 54 percent believe adding invention projects in school or a creative field trip, and 52 percent suggested giving students a place in the school to develop inventions could be a solution to generate future innovators.

A vast majority of 80 percent expressed interest in education training courses, outside of the classroom, to help them become more inventive and creative. Fifty-eight percent said that opportunities to participate in invention-related national service co-op like a training program where students can “shadow” working professionals in science, technology, engineering and math would also encourage future U.S. innovators.

Experts said the survey clearly demonstrated that young Americans recognize the impact of innovation on the U.S. economy and are “acutely aware” of the importance of invention in their personal lives.

These encouraging statistics show that young Americans have an interest in learning more about invention. At the Lemelson-MIT Program our mission is to celebrate and inspire invention. We invite communities to join us by giving youth access to role models and hands-on programs like InvenTeams to help them become more inventive in their personal and professional lives," Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, said in a statement.

The 2012 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index consisted of a national survey sample of 1,010 young adults.