Friday, December 6, 2013

US conservatives don't mistrust all science – just science that could lead to regulation

Liz Kalaugher in Environmental Research Web: Contrary to popular belief, US conservatives do not trust science or scientists across the board less than liberals do. But they do show less trust in scientists who study the environmental and health impacts of new technologies. Scientists who help create new economic products are trusted slightly more by conservatives than by their left-leaning compatriots.

"Conservative Republicans don't rail against petroleum geology, nuclear physics or industrial chemistry," Aaron McCright of Michigan State University told environmentalresearchweb. "Rather, they oppose those scientific endeavours that help us better understand how human activities are affecting the environment and our health. It is this latter science that produces data that is often used to justify governmental regulations."

Journalists and scholars have argued that conservatives and Republicans oppose or don't trust science, but from McCright's observations "this isn't that accurate". Previous studies have asked for people's views about science or scientists in general; McCright and colleagues from Michigan State set out to understand the relationship between political ideology and opinions on science "in a way that was a bit more nuanced".

According to McCright, the divide between conservatives and liberals on trust in science has increased since the early 1990s, when political polarization on support for environmental protection also began. "You might remember this was when many conservative leaders and Republican politicians really started calling climate science, environmental science, epidemiology, and others by the slur of 'junk science'," he said. "So what seems likely is that the erosion of confidence in science among conservatives was really an erosion of confidence in those areas of science related to environmental protection – that is, what we call impact science."...

A photograph of the Little White Schoolhouse of Ripon, Wisconsin, claimed birthplace of the US Republican Party (i.e. the site of one of the first meetings of the general "anti-Nebraska" movement of 1854 to use the name "Republican")

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