Comparison of the Day: Conservative vs. Liberal Trust of Science

From Kevin Drum’s Chart o’ the Day:

Lots of interesting stuff going on there. Notice, in particular, how the trust in science falls off a cliff for moderates in the 70s. It’s also fascinating that conservative trust in science used to be as high (if not higher) than that of liberals 40 years ago. This is still the case in Europe — for the most part there is no liberal/conservative divide in trust in science.

It gets even more interesting when you look at the subpopulations. You might think, for instance, that the decline in conservative belief in science has been driven by shifts in the attitudes of the least educated conservatives. Nope:

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.

In the paper, Gauchat calls this a “key finding,” in part because it challenges “the deficit model, which predicts that individuals with higher levels of education will possess greater trust in science, by showing that educated conservatives uniquely experienced the decline in trust.” This finding also could make it difficult to change attitudes. Gauchat writes that the educational attainment data suggest “that scientific literacy and education are unlikely to have uniform effects on various publics, especially when ideology and identity intervene to create social ontologies in opposition to established cultures of knowledge (e.g., the scientific community, intelligentsia, and mainstream media).”

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