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Republicans reject Science; Scientists reject Republicans

July 10th, 2009 · 18 Comments

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.

Update:  For Chris Mooney’s take, see: The New Pew Report on Science and America and Some reactions to the PEW/AAAS Report.

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.

Tags: Energy

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brian D // Jul 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    “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.”

    Anecdotal observation: All of the conservatives I argue with on climate change who have heard of Hansen reject him out of hand as an activist instead of a scientist. One wonders if there’s an ideological split on this as well, or rather just some issues that people would rather not listen to scientists on.

  • 2 A Siegel // Jul 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Brian — Haven’t seen the party breakdowns. From the report:

    “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. Virtually all scientists (97%) endorse their participation in debates about these issues, while 76% of the public agrees.”

    There might be a strong ideological split, but I think the question is interesting re ‘general public’ as opposed to committed activists.

    Chances are that the people you argue with are well-informed with denier talking points and been fed material re James Hansen.

    And, let’s be clear, Hansen has moved very strongly from “science” to “policy prescription”.

  • 3 Steve M. // Aug 31, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Our contemporary science videos are weak sauce compared to the inspiring Walt Disney productions of the 1950s and ’60s. There are too few scientists with the popular appeal of, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    Expose the primary school population to good imagination-inspiring presentations, and that’s half the battle.

    As it stands, science is perceived by too many people as inaccessible… Uhh, who wants to put bells and whistles on “Radioisotope Dating through Gas Chromotography” for our next episode…?

    It can be done, but it needs to be done right.

  • 4 Large majority of Americans rejecting massively funded disinformation conspiracy // Nov 24, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    [...] anti-science syndrome spreading like an ugly virus in the Republican ranks (and, not surprisingly, increasingly driving away scientists from the Republican Party). (To be clear, I would much prefer that science were not treated as a partisan hot potatoe. The [...]

  • 5 Sarah Palin’s zombie charm … // Dec 3, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    [...] and the scientific process would achieve much of this. And, if you would start to take that route, perhaps scientists would consider returning to the Republican Party. NOTE: From an email … It feels like objective reality is sliding backwards and playing [...]

  • 6 Representative Linder: Truthiness is a lazy man’s game // Dec 7, 2009 at 12:50 am

    [...] When one considers such anti-science syndrome habits and attitudes that pervade too many in the Repu…. The Republican War on Science continues. It is sad, on so many levels, that climate change has [...]

  • 7 Distorting David Frum weighs in on ClimateGATE/Swifthack // Dec 8, 2009 at 11:35 am

    [...] fundamental problem, which Frum ignores, is that the growing Republican Party questioning of global warming reflects the growing power of anti-science syndrome a…. This does not bode well for the Party or the nation or, sadly, the prospects for humanity’s [...]

  • 8 Washington Post washes its hands with passive voice re climate change confusion // Dec 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    [...] The global disinformation effort on climate change, buoyed via selective (and deceptive) quoting from the stolen East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) emails (ClimateGATE / Swift Hack) is having its impact. And, this poll’s result reinforces the deepening partisan divide between Republicans and the scientific community. [...]

  • 9 Americans’ Christmas Eve wishes for a Clean Energy Future // Dec 27, 2009 at 9:50 am

    [...] According to this poll (pdf), more than two-thirds of registered voters understand that global warming is occurring while only 31 percent reject the data about global temperature changes in their mistaken belief that the climate is changing.  Sadly, the poll provides another data point about the glaring partisan divide when it comes to respect for and understanding of science: [...]

  • 10 Republicans reject Science; Scientists reject Republicans « JoeWo Joe Wosik Blog // May 6, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    [...] 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).  Story is located here [...]

  • 11 An election about science? // Sep 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    [...] There has been a growing gap between scientists and the Republican Party. In 2009, of 2500 polled scientists, just 6 percent of the polled identify themselves as [...]

  • 12 Americans Trust Scientists Over Climate Deniers // Oct 18, 2010 at 10:18 am

    [...] Republicans reject Science; Scientists reject Republicans [...]

  • 13 A message from 10,000+ to BarackObama.COM // Nov 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    [...] is one year before the 2012 Presidential election. An important date. Considering the Anti-Science Syndrome suffering Hatred Of a Liveable Economic System dominating the Republican Party, it not hard to see this as an election that could seal the nation’s fate when it comes to [...]

  • 14 The White House Asks: What should be in the State of the Union address? // Jan 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    [...] and certainly into the future. The Republican Party is, well, simply at odds with science (and scientists know it). How at odds they are from reality will not be a serious part of the media conversation unless [...]

  • 15 An election about science // Jan 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

    [...] has been a growing gap between scientists and the Republican Party. In 2009, of 2500 polled scientists, just 6 percent of the polled identify themselves as [...]

  • 16 April Chaos: Slushy Snow Saturday Morning To 80s Next Week | NOAA // Jul 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    [...] value of government, women’s right to make choices about their bodies, … One of the starkest: attitudes toward science and most notably to climate science. The Obama Administration — including President Obama — has [...]

  • 17 President Obama speaks re climate, crowd cheers, ‘The Village’ notices // Sep 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    [...] At the Presidential and Congressional levels, 2012 is truly an election about science. Science is truly a differentiator between the parties — with climate science being the most extreme example of this.  And, on this, the American public us (and America’s scientists are) not sympathetic to the Republican Party. [...]

  • 18 Is Climate a New Political Stealth Super Weapon? « Climate Denial Crock of the Week // Sep 9, 2012 at 5:28 am

    [...] At the presidential and congressional levels, 2012 is truly an election about science. Science is truly a differentiator between the parties — with climate science being the most extreme example of this.  And on this, the American public (and America’s scientists) are not sympathetic to the Republican Party. [...]

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