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Discussion > US conservatives have had higher trust in science than left-what happened?


MARCH 30, 2012
CONFIDENCE IN SCIENCE BY CONSERVATIVES HAS DECLINED SINCE 1974: “That represents a dramatic shift for conservatives, who in 1974 were more likely than liberals or moderates (all categories based on self-identification) to express confidence in science. While the confidence levels of other groups in science have been relatively stable, the conservative drop now means that group is the least likely to have confidence in science.”

The reason is the use of science as an argument-from-authority for bigger government. If scientists want more trust, perhaps they should try not to be tools.

UPDATE: Reader Mary Ritenour writes:
I tracked back to the original paper
to see what the exact survey question was.

“The GSS asked respondents the following question: “I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them [the Scientific Community]?”(page 172)

The confidence in “people running these institutions” was being measured, not “Science” itself. Huge difference. HUGE!

Maybe we should be skeptical of science reporting, too. [-technology law prof Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee]

More from the online article linked at bottom:


"Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review.

"That represents a dramatic shift for conservatives, who in 1974 were more likely than liberals or moderates (all categories based on self-identification) to express confidence in science. While the confidence levels of other groups in science have been relatively stable, the conservative drop now means that group is the least likely to have confidence in science.

"Less-educated conservatives didn't change their attitudes about science in recent decades. It is better-educated conservatives who have done so, the paper says."

I understand that the data used in this study comes from the University of Chicago's General Social Survey - widely seen as reliable as any other data source.

Now, this interesting because it answers Chris Mooney's lunatic speculations about the same issue.
In fact, since educated conservatives reflect common sense appreciation of economics, this shows their wisdom.

First, incentives matter. Subsidize junk science, you'll get more of it. This leads to Gresham's Law applied to science: bad science drives out good.

As the author says: ""I think in many ways science is having these problems because it has become such a powerful cultural institution. It weighs in on political issues, it therefore becomes political."

ONLINE ARTICLE
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/03/29/study-tracks-erosion-conservative-confidence-science

PAPER
http://www.asanet.org/images/journals/docs/pdf/asr/Apr12ASRFeature.pdf

Mar 31, 2012 at 3:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterOrson