If it seems as if, with increasing frequency and intensity, American conservatives are hostile towards science – climate change, evolution, medical research, etc. – it’s not your imagination.
This chart, as part of a study from Gordon Gauchat, made the rounds yesterday, and with good reason. It shows the trend over the last four decades of Americans’ trust in science, as broken down by political ideology. The results are hard to miss: conservatives’ trust in science is in sharp decline.
It seemed plausible to me that education levels may account for some of this, but that’s not the case – Gauchat’s research found the same trend among conservatives regardless of their last completed degree. Indeed, it’s counterintuitive, but when it comes to valuing science, conservatives with college degrees “decline more quickly than those with only a high school degree.”
Kevin Drum had a good take on this.
In other words, this decline in trust in science has been led by the most educated, most engaged segment of conservatism. Conservative elites have led the anti-science charge and the rank-and-file has followed.
This is presumably part of the wider conservative turn against knowledge-disseminating institutions whose output is perceived as too liberal (academia, the mainstream media, Hollywood) in favor of institutions that produce more reliably conservative narratives (churches, business-oriented think tanks, Fox News). More and more, liberals and conservatives are almost literally living in different worlds with different versions of consensus reality.
With no shared reality, even conversations between left and right become unnervingly difficult.
Kevin also noted the latest piece from my friend Chris Mooney, “Diagnosing the Republican Brain,” which is well worth your time.