The Republican Party has a serious infection of anti-science syndrome. And, the Republican War on Science clearly has been noticed by scientists. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press came out, yesterday, with a report entitled Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media. This is an interesting polling report, on a number of levels. As per the title, let us focus on one item: Scientists and Party affiliation. As can be seen in the table to the right, “Partisan and Ideological Differences”, of 2500 polled scientists, just 6 percent of the polled identify themselves as Republicans (as opposed to 23 percent of the overall population).
As Stephen Colbert put it, “reality has a well-known liberal bias”. Scientists work in, specialize in understanding reality. Should it shock anyone that they have a liberal bias?
Now, as Republicans continue to proudly flaunt their Anti-Science Syndrome (A.S.S.) suffering Haters of a Livable Economy (H.O.L.E.) credentials, this poll suggests some severe political risks of determined attacks on science and the scientific community on issues like Global Warming.
- “Both scientists and the public overwhelmingly say it is appropriate for scientists to become active in political debates about such issues as nuclear power or stem cell research.”
- While scientists self-identify as liberal, most American’s don’t see scientists as liberal. Thus, engaged experts might view themselves as politically liberal, the general public is likely not to view them in this way.
- Scientists are the third most respected profession (after the military and teachers)
These three combine to suggest that scientists could be strong spokesman for “liberal”, “progressive”, “science-based” policy.
Now, disinformation on key issues clearly has had an impact.
- “87% of scientists state that evolution is the result of natural processes with just 32 percent public agreement.”
- “the near consensus among scientists about global warming is not mirrored in the general public. While 84% of scientists say the earth is getting warmer because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels, just 49% of the public agrees.”
These sort of significant gaps between expert and informed knowledge and general, public view should be — are — troubling. The scientists identify poor media coverage of science as a key problem. And, journalistic analyses of media reporting on global warming agree with that. Thus, the challenge isn’t expert knowledge, but communicating that knowledge to the general public with a thick and confusing media filter while dealing with determined disinformation campaigns.
NOTE: To be quite clear, this enormous gap between the scientific community and the Republican Party is the creation of the Republican Party and its core, not due to shifts within the scientific community. Many scientists are ‘classic’ liberals and many ‘classic’ conservatives, but core to the current Republican base are fundamenally anti-science values, attitudes, and rhetoric.