Where Conservatives & Liberals Stand on Science
Who is more anti-science: Liberals or Conservatives? The question has been endlessly argued by political talking heads on either side, but the discussion has been surprisingly devoid of quality evidence. Finger-pointing, anecdotes, and one-off polls are used instead, and nothing really gets settled.
Filling the information void this week is a new, in-depth survey from the Pew Research Center. Data scientists polled 2,002 adults nationwide about their views on a wide range of scientific topics, including climate change, vaccines, and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). The researchers were keen to find out where liberals and conservatives stand.
Energy and climate change were significant categories in the report, and both were highly politicized. Seventy percent of liberals were opposed to the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas, while fifty-four percent of conservatives favored it. Sixty percent of liberals were also against building more nuclear power plants, while fifty-five percent of conservatives were for it. Vastly more liberals than conservatives accepted the science on climate change. Seventy-six percent of liberals said the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity, while only twenty-nine percent of conservatives agreed.
Surprisingly, anti-science views on vaccines and GMOs, typically attributed to the left, were equally distributed amongst liberals and conservatives. Fifty-seven percent of conservatives and fifty-six percent of liberals said that it is generally unsafe to eat GMOs, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Luckily, misguided views on vaccines were far less prevalent. Just twelve percent of liberals and ten percent of conservatives believed that childhood vaccines are unsafe (but that is still far too high).
The Pew survey replicated previous findings on the topic of evolution. Seventy-seven precent of liberals accepted evolution as a fact, while only forty-three perecent of conservatives did.
Ideally, ideology should never factor into matters of science; the evidence either points one direction or the other. But evidence is sometimes murky, and sadly, it's often misrepresented or neglected entirely.
But at RCS, evidence is all that matters. Last year, we put together an evidence-based primer on a host of politicized issues. If you're curious, check it out.