Why are Republican presidential hopefuls like Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal afraid to endorse evolutionary biology? Because they don’t want to alienate their party’s base.
Forty-nine percent of Republicans don’t believe in evolution, a new Public Policy Polling survey found Tuesday.The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 49 percent of Republicans said they do not believe in evolution while 37 percent said they do believe in evolution. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.
I was curious about the specific wording of the question, which turned out to be quite straightforward: “Do you believe in evolution or not?” A 49% plurality of Republicans said they do not.
This is obviously only one survey, though the results are roughly in line with what we’ve seen from other pollsters. Indeed, the evidence suggests support for evolutionary biology among Republicans has actually dropped in recent years.
On the surface, as we’ve discussed before, results like these are discouraging. There’s plenty to divide Americans, but scientific truths need not be one of them.
But I continue to wonder how much of this is sincere and how much of this is the result of tribalism.
It’s certainly possible that Republicans are, all of a sudden, turning against modern biology in greater numbers, but I think it’s more likely that in a time of stark polarization, partisans choose to stick to their “team.”
Paul Krugman had a good piece on this last year.
The point … is that Republicans are being driven to identify in all ways with their tribe – and the tribal belief system is dominated by anti-science fundamentalists. For some time now it has been impossible to be a good Republicans while believing in the reality of climate change; now it’s impossible to be a good Republican while believing in evolution.
It shouldn’t be this way, of course, but the alternative is believing that a big chunk of Republican voters have suddenly decided, for no reason, not to believe in modern biology.