Dems vs GOP: Voter Confidence in Scientific Method

Dems vs GOP: Voter Confidence in Scientific Method February 17, 2020

Pew Research Center recently carried out some research with regard to science and voter preference. The piece is interesting and worth a read, but what stuck out for me was the confidence in the scientific method.

As Pew stated:

Factual knowledge alone does not explain public confidence in the scientific method to produce sound conclusions. Overall, a 63% majority of Americans say the scientific method generally produces sound conclusions, while 35% think it can be used to produce “any result a researcher wants.” People’s level of knowledge can influence beliefs about these matters, but it does so through the lens of partisanship, a tendency known as motivated reasoning.

Beliefs about this matter illustrate that science knowledge levels sometimes correlate with public attitudes. But partisanship has a stronger role.

Democrats are more likely to express confidence in the scientific method to produce accurate conclusions than do Republicans, on average. Most Democrats with high levels of science knowledge (86%, based on an 11-item index of factual knowledge questions) say the scientific method generally produces accurate conclusions. By comparison, 52% of Democrats with low science knowledge say this. But science knowledge has little bearing on Republicans’ beliefs about the scientific method.

Voters with low baseline scientific knowledge showed little difference in approach to the scientific method, but those with medium and high knowledge showed marked differences when taking political preference into account. There will almost certainly be a religious component in here; Republicans are far more likely to be strongly (evangelically) religious, and with this comes a completely compromised view on science, its method and scientific findings. You may get a fairly scientifically literate Republican, say in an area of materials science, who denies evolution or climate change (i.e., AGW). Such a cherry-picked approach to science and the scientific method will produce these widely variant data sets.

It’s nothing I wouldn’t have predicted, but useful data nonetheless.

 


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