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Tuesday
Oct152013

Some data on education, religiosity, ideology, and science comprehension

No, this blog post is not a federally funded study. It's neither "federally funded" nor a "study"! Doesn't it bug you that our hard-earned tax dollars pay the salary of a federal bureaucrat too lazy to figure out simple facts like this?

Because the "asymmetry thesis" just won't leave me alone, I decided it would be sort of interesting to see what the relationship was between a "science comprehension" scale I've been developing and political outlooks.

The "science comprehension" measure is a composite of 11 items from the National Science Foundation's "Science Indicators" battery, the standard measure of "science literacy" used in public opinion studies (including comparative ones), plus 10 items from an extended version of the Cognitive Reflection Test, which is normally considered the best measure of the disposition to engage in conscious, effortful information processing ("System 2") as opposed to intuitive, heuristic processing ("System 1").  

The items scale well together (α= 0.81) and can be understood to measure a disposition that combines substantive science knowledge with a disposition to use critical reasoning skills of the sort necessary to make valid inferences from observation. We used a version of a scale like this--one combining the NSF science literacy battery with numeracy--in our study of how science comprehension magnifies cultural polarization over climate change and nuclear power.

Although the scale is designed to (and does) measure a science-comprehension aptitude that doesn't reduce simply to level of education, one would expect it to correlate reasonably strongly with education and it does (r = 0.36, p < .01). The practical significance of the impact education makes to science comprehension so measured can be grasped pretty readily, I think, when the performance of those who have and who haven't graduated from college is graphically displayed in a pair of overlaid histograms:

The respondents, btw, consisted of a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults recruited to participate in a study of vaccine risk perceptions that was administered this summer (the data from that are coming soon!).

Both science literacy and CRT have been shown to correlate negatively with religiosity. And there is, in turns out, a modest negative correlation (r = -0.26, p < 0.01) between the composite science comprehension measure and a religiosity scale formed by aggregating church attendance, frequency of prayer, and self-reported "importance of God" in the respondents' lives.

I frankly don't think that that's a very big deal. There are plenty of highly religious folks who have a high science comprehension score, and plenty of secular ones who don't.  When it comes to conflict over decision-relevant science, it is likely to be more instructive to consider how religiosity and science comprehension interact, something I've explored previously.

Now, what about politics?

Proponents of the "asymmetry thesis" tend to emphasize the existence of a negative correlation between conservative political outlooks and various self-report measures of cognitive style--ones that feature items such as  "thinking is not my idea of fun" & "the notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me." 

These sorts of self-report measures predict vulnerability to one or another reasoning bias less powerfully than CRT and numeracy, and my sense is that they are falling out of favor in cognitive psychology. 

In my paper, Ideology, Motivated Reasoning, and Cognitive Reflection, I found that the Cogntive Reflection Test did not meaningfully correlate with left-right political outlooks.

In this dataset, I found that there is a small correlation (r = -0.05, p = 0.03) between the science comprehension measure and a left-right political outlook measure, Conservrepub, which aggregates liberal-conservative ideology and party self-identification. The sign of the correlation indicates that science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction--i.e., the more "liberal" and "Democrat," the more science comprehending.

Do you think this helps explain conflicts over climate change or other forms of decision-relevant science? I don't.

But if you do, then maybe you'll find this interesting.  The dataset happened to have an item in it that asked respondents if they considered themselves "part of the Tea Party movement." Nineteen percent said yes.

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub.  

Except that it has the opposite sign: that is, identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively (r = 0.05, p = 0.05) with scores on the science comprehension measure:

Again, the relationship is trivially small, and can't possibly be contributing in any way to the ferocious conflicts over decision-relevant science that we are experiencing.

I've got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I'd be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).  

I'm a little embarrassed, but mainly I'm just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

I'll now be much less surprised, too, if it turns out that someone I meet at, say, the Museum of Science in Boston, or the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is part of the 20% (geez-- I must know some of them) who would answer "yes" when asked if he or she identifies with the Tea Party.  If the person is there, then it will almost certainly be the case that that he or she & I will agree on how cool the stuff is at the museum, even if we don't agree about many other matters of consequence.

Next time I collect data, too, I won't be surprised at all if the correlations between science comprehension and political ideology or identification with the Tea Party movement disappear or flip their signs.  These effects are trivially small, & if I sample 2000+ people it's pretty likely any discrepancy I see will be "statistically significant"--which has precious little to do with "practically significant."

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  • Response
    Will he now do a study to document the cognitive biases of the left, their tendency to demean as nearly subhuman all those who disagree with them?

Reader Comments (284)

As a member of the Yale graduating class of 1968, and having spent the last 45 years in the computer industry and medical field, I have noticed something quite simple. Liberals have always espoused policies that go against human nature and try to prevent bad things from happening. It was a bad thing that people had no basics of life when they got old that were not provided for them by family (or they had saved for themselves). Thus Social Security et al was born. People didn't have enough food in the view of some, and food stamps were born. People didn't have the necessities (sic), and welfare was born. More on top of more. Not everyone had great medical care and the ACA was born. I am sure you get the picture.
From the common sense, and I might add tea party viewpoint, we as humans have always tried to make it better for some by taking from those who have. Our questions really devolve to one question. "Where does it stop? How far do you want to take this and how much do you really want from those who work for it? If you can answer that, we can talk. If you cannot answer that and stick with it, we know you will never stop until you have it all.."

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHoward

The first problem is that you formed the basis of your original views of Tea Party members and supporters from biased members of the media.

My Father has been to Tea Party rallies and affiliates himself with the Tea Party movement. He received his Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech. He was what many would call a rocket scientist and was nearly an astronaut. One of his West Point classmates in fact did become an astronaut.

I myself hold a degree in economics and am finishing my MBA. Though I am Christian am well aware of the big bang and the formation of our universe and the subsequent theories around its formation. In my spare time I like to read about quantum gravity and other forms of theoretical physics. I enjoyed reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

I am an amateur astronomer, hate the fact that light pollution is drowning out my beautiful skies and can fully articulate the intricacies of both space and time or the lack thereof. I not only have the capacity to understand the universe, but the ability to imagine it. Oh, I also missed maxing out the science portion of my ACT back in high school by just a few points.

Your beliefs were prejudiced based upon a highly biased source. That would be the same as me saying that all Liberals want abortion or that Women only care about birth control in an election.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean M

... the data is in ...

... and we still don't like you ...

... can't explain it ...

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersearock

When you live in the Den of wolves long enough, anything other than anther wolf becomes your enemy. Everyone who is part of the system lives with the wolves, and as much as I hate to say this, we are the sheep.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Zellaha

When thinking you might disagree with Tea Party adherents, ask yourself one question:

"Out of what our Founding Fathers were trying to tell us, what would I disagree with?"

Said another way, the Tea Party believes in the principles of our country's founders.

These principles were reason enough to rebel and form a new union for, at huge sacrifice.

The principles are still valid today.

Hint: Racism is not one of the principles.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Galt

You just identified an even bigger finding, that most of us have already figured out by now, but you seem oblivious to it despite it staring you right in the face.

The media LIES TO YOU. NYT, all the networks, academia, all these outlets that you think are reputable are woefully incompetent and deceitful, biased, and intellectually dishonest.

You just proved it to yourself and you don't even realize it.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Revere

The only thing that surprises me about this is that you are willing to admit that you shield yourself from a balanced flow of news and commentary. Normally, college professors want to pretend that they are "informed" by not even discussing their news sources. What this study really shows, therefore, is how deeply ideologically biased most media outlets are. Then again, those of us who consume news from multiple sources already knew that...

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterS R Larson

As a Tea Party type, all I can say is LOL. Not surprised at all.

Sadly, many Liberals don't invest any time in understanding the other side and have shallow analysis on societal problem solving. From economics to the sciences, they confuses wishes and feelings with scientific fact. The Global Warming hysteria is but one of these mass delusions promoted by Liberals. Thankfully, credible scientists are re-examining the "settled" science and find all the holes in the arguments.

What is worse, they do ascribe sub-human characteristics to folks on the Right and sadly Liberals are the "more ignorant" bigots of our day. Yes, Liberals are flaming KKK wannabees, just for a different type of tribe. No better nor worse.

Best wishes to all but about time someone in Academia opened their eyes to truth and turned away from politics.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Rodriguez

After a little further thought, Dan, you have managed to prove what most of us with so-called Tea Party beliefs already know.

First point is that the media is highly successful in demonizing the movement, spreading notions about it that are completely false and inaccurate.

Second being that the liberal elite just do not care about the truth, and even when presented with it they act surprised. Despite learning that their original assumptions are false, they still go on with their own incorrect beliefs and perpetuate the lies they have learned, forgetting the truth.

Thirdly, we are indeed smarter than liberals are. This applies not only to science, but economics as well ;)

You should actually take the time to hang out with someone in the Tea Party. You might even surprise yourself a little more than you already are. If you come over to my place, I can share the heavens with you. By that I don’t mean a bible. I mean the universe all the from Messier 31 all the way out to the furthest reaches of space and time. However, you will be limited to about 13 magnitude stars and objects. Such is the extent of the aperture of my telescope and the limitations of light polluted Northern Virginia.

Tea Partiers are not back woods people with beliefs stuck in the medieval ages, thinking the earth is flat. It is more of a fiscal state of mind.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean M

"I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for. "

There's the problem: your *understanding* of the Tea Party movement... it's flawed, just that simple.

Should a country borrow more than it can ever repay?

Should a country allow people to cross its borders in an uncontrolled fashion?

Is a government powerful enough to give you everything also powerful enough to take it all away?

Does a government committee know more what society needs than a free market does?

Can an all-powerful government be trusted not to persecute those who disagree with it?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCapt.Obvious

Liberals couldn't win a national election without the ability to rob the productive class and give to their Free Shit Army base. Likewise, Democrats win 90%+ of the black vote, and the average black's IQ is only 85. What a shock that Democrats aren't that smart.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim

I am an anesthesiologist, US-educated (Northwestern Medical School in Chicago) and I was trained at Brigham &Women's Hospital (Harvard Medical School) residency and cardiac anesthesia fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical School in NYC. I am an avid science reader, and an atheist.

And I am a Tea Party member. I believe that Tea Party ideas come from the best traditions of Western Liberalism, namely, belief in self reliance, respect of individualism and individuals, skepticism of ever growing, oppressive and spying gov't, decentralization of education, etc etc etc.

I cannot bear to hear that people that nowadays calls themselves "liberals" believe in growing the gov't and cultivating the dependence on gov't. This dependence comes in many forms, such as :

-- by corporations that foster anti-competitive laws through the gov't;
-- by millions of people on welfare and other social programs;
-- by people like Dr. Kahan who make their living through gov't grants;

This ever growing status of gov't is more akin to fascism than to liberalism, if you ask me.

Thanks.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMO, MD

I applaud Mr. Kahan on acknowledging his own false assumptions and being a big enough person to admit it and try not to do it in the future.
He unwittingly believed in all the false narratives being created in the media outlets, from places like the Huffington Post, Politico, NY Times, etc. It shows their success in building this shibboleth of the typical Tea Party member as a uneducated, back-woods hillbilly.
Mr. Kahan's intellectual honesty is refreshing and has become a rare commodity these days.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewH

The fact that you accept the finding and don't try to hide the results means you are honest. So many of your colleagues would hide anything positive about people they oppose.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTony Karsis

I applaud Mr. Kahan on acknowledging his own false assumptions and being a big enough person to admit it and try not to do it in the future.
He unwittingly believed in all the false narratives being created in the media outlets, from places like the Huffington Post, Politico, NY Times, etc. It shows their success in building this shibboleth of the typical Tea Party member as a uneducated, back-woods hillbilly.
Mr. Kahan's intellectual honesty is refreshing and has become a rare commodity these days.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewH

Why did you caution against thinking the results can be used to explain deep ideological fights over climate change and other politically relevant science?

Apart from your stubborn ideological prejudice w/re to climate change, there is no reason to offer any such caution.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaisy

I applaud Mr. Kahan on acknowledging his own false assumptions and being a big enough person to admit it and try not to do it in the future.
He unwittingly believed in all the false narratives being created in the media outlets, from places like the Huffington Post, Politico, NY Times, etc. It shows their success in building this shibboleth of the typical Tea Party member as a uneducated, back-woods hillbilly.
Mr. Kahan's intellectual honesty is refreshing and has become a rare commodity these days.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewH

I applaud Mr. Kahan on acknowledging his own false assumptions and being a big enough person to admit it and try not to do it in the future.
He unwittingly believed in all the false narratives being created in the media outlets, from places like the Huffington Post, Politico, NY Times, etc. It shows their success in building this shibboleth of the typical Tea Party member as a uneducated, back-woods hillbilly.
Mr. Kahan's intellectual honesty is refreshing and has become a rare commodity these days.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewH

As a somewhat Tea Party person (and MENSA member) let me point out that the nominal Tea Party covers about as much ground as does the Libertarian "Party". In other words, a collecting ground for all sorts of malcontents, many of whom are quite intelligent by standard measures. It thus stands to reason that many such persons will have a strong science background.

There are also a large number of the "Christian Conservative" types who identify as Tea Party (in the hope of hijacking the movement in my opinion) and you can expect a rather low comprehension of science (or logic in general) in that group.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Your results are hardly new, but like all the previous studies which have indicated that people associated with the Tea Party are better informed than average, this study will be soon forgotten.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Tea Party is portrayed, and how far from reality that portrayal is. If all that you know of the Tea Party is from cable news, you are quite ignorant on the subject.

It's like Alice in Wonderland. The people who focus on real math and real results are portrayed as crazy, and attacked in the most puerile ways, while the people who want to continue the demonstrably failed policies the past are portrayed as reasonable.

Bah. I wash my hands of you. Any further effort to try to enlighten you is a waste of time.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Smith

Speaking as someone who holds many of the same beliefs as the average Tea Party member, I can agree with one of the statements made above by Joshua "My guess is that hardcore Partiers are more likely to be "reflective" thinkers, because they are people who are generally more "motivated" to investigate issues associated with their identifications."

In retrospect, my own personal journey has led me from primarily Democrat to moderately Republican to Tea Party sympathizer. The reasoning is far more than I would like to get into here, but the short answer is that I grew up in a poor neighborhood and over time I have come to see that what the Democrats have to offer is not really conducive to upward mobility.

When I began to research the "why" of my theory, I discovered that while liberal economic measures seem nice on paper, the reality plays out in a totally different way throughout history. This led me to study economists like Thomas Sowell, as well as dig into ideas by Marcus Garvey and others who see these economic measures as a way to control or enslave.

While many of the Tea Party members must seem like right wing radicals, I think you'll find that their economic beliefs are based on historical proof and not emotional desires. It is one thing to want utopia, but the realist knows that a true utopia is a very lonely place since humans can't seem to get along for long periods of time.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Diaz

My friend,

I sort of get why you were surprised when you ran the tests and the numbers showed that TEA party members had more science literacy than liberals? I guess you figured that because these TEA party people act so irrationally and barbarically, hence it meant they ought to be illiterate? Well, that's NOT the point here.

You see liberals make up more than 52% of the country. You could call them democrats, progressives, leftists, etc., but they're a huge group. The TEA party on the other hand, are perhaps just a few million people at most? Who knows? Maybe just 2% of the population? The point is when you lift out 2,000 people out of a set of 150+ million liberals and 2 million TEA party members, the probability that you will end up with the most science literate liberals is lesser, because its group set is more diverse. But you counted the sum total of science literate liberal people in total compared to the number of science literate TEA party members, OF COURSE you will end up with MORE science literate liberals, because the group is so much bigger. Basically, its an easy conclusion, -

The number of science literate liberals > The number of science literate TEA party members. That's EASY.

Also remember, TEA party members also consist of Libertarians, the privileged 1% and so on. Libertarians are in general, quite an educated bunch. In fact, it is their 'education' which makes them so arrogant and snobbish. They think they're better than everybody else. Libertarians, most of them, know the constitution word-by-word, they know laws and rules and so on. But that's no endorsement. Libertarians will let the poor starve and die in the name of freedom and liberty. They will let other people and other countries burn, as long as they're isolated. They're not worthy of any respect.

But please don't for once second, think or believe that the TEA party is more science literate as a whole when compared to liberals. The most that your findings suggest are that, 2,000 TEA party members were more science literate than 2,000 liberals. What about 2 million TEA party members versus 2 million liberals? Whom do you think would be more science literate? Wanna bet? :)

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManik Sethisuwan

I am not surprised. I identify with many TEA Party views, most of which are characterized falsely or openly lied about in the praetorian media.

I cannot speak for everyone else so I will just speak for me. I realize that no matter what I say I am likely to get flamed in comments following mine. Feel free. I am a big boy so I can take it.

I graduated with distinction from Indiana University. I was a champion debater in high school. I got A's in all my physics classes and I find Michio Kaku to be most interesting. My Notre Dame/IU English Prof. Don Sloan said that I am a "critical thinking prize fighter".

At my first economics class I took the IU standardized economics aptitude test. The score I received was so high that it exceeded most econ grads. The department actually requested that I change my major to economics.

I debated the head of Notre Dame's econ department, Dr. Theresa Gilharducci, on social security and retirement policy in front of a large audience and the consensus was that I came out ahead.

I also published and ran my own student newspaper with a small group of like minded friends.

I was Chief Justice of Student Government and with the aid of the Indiana ACLU and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education I put an end to illegal censorship of the official student newspaper by the administration.

In my experience too many academics exist in a sort of self imposed social bubble. I encourage you to have the courage to challenge your own assumptions and to always remember fallaces sunt rerum species.

I wish you well.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Norton

Sure wouldn't want you to change what-you-think of Tea Party members based on a few little scientifically-generated facts.
That just won't do.
If you did that, what's next? Global-warming deniership?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJBSPuddintane

"Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for."


Like fighting the $17 Trillion national debt, massive budget deficit, EPA war on coal, lies about global warming, entitlement out of control costs, welfare state, food stamp explosion, disability payment explosion, etc.

Sounds pretty logical and scientific to me.

What political and moral assessments of the Tea Party could possibly be negative?

They are trying to save the country. Duh

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNice Guy

To those of working in the sciences in industry, scientists working in academic look idealogically driven to produce outcomes that match their biases. Academia is so rigidly leftwing that diversity inf viewpoint has disaapeared from university research. Consensus adherence now drives faculty selection and research. University faculty rarely meet or know anyone who holds a conservative point of view. This should be embarrassing but any professing conservative would be hounded out of a publicaaly funded school. Public higher education is a failed institution in America. Its main purpose today is to enforce liberal ideological
conformity in research and publication. Consequently people so not trust science as they used to. They see uniformity in thought where is to be vigorous debate and dissent.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Nelson

I could not help but notice, many of you intellectual giants are so taken with yourselves, you must publish an entire book, so that others may revel in your superior intellect. Pol Pot killed all the intellectuals, he may have been on to something!

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Zellaha

With the MSM hammering the "Tea Party" as a dangerous empty headed it is no wonder that their popularity is going down. What is so radical about wanting our government to only spend as much as they take in? What is so radical about wanting to keep more of what they earn? What is so radical about wanting everyone to be treated equally. Do the Liberals really disagree with "the only way to end racism is to stop being racist?"

It is easy to label people. It is intellectually lazy. Only by hearing what they have to say and observing their actions can you judge people. I try to not listen to people who bad mouth others. It is only one side of the story. For some reason the MSM has gotten away with a smear campaign that does not come close to the truth. It is time for people who say they are tolerant to be back up with words with actions. Listen to what people have to say and never judge based on someone's else's opinion, even it is the "respected" press.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFist de Yuma

"It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub."

"Next time I collect data, too, I won't be surprised at all if the correlations between science comprehension and political ideology or identification with the Tea Party movement disappear or flip their signs. These effects are trivially small, & if I sample 2000+ people it's pretty likely any discrepancy I see will be "statistically significant"--which has precious little to do with 'practically significant.'"

Anybody see the obvious bias here?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRandell Young

My friend,

TEA party members are NOT more science literate than liberals. All your test shows was that 2,000 TEA party members were more science literate than 2,000 liberals. Nothing more. No confusing or over-analyzing over this. What about the entire group? Say, 2 million TEA party members nationwide versus 150+ million liberals nationwide?

Gather up all the science literate liberals and all the science literate TEA party members from the entire nation and line them up in a city. :)

Then you'll see.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManik Sethisuwan

"Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the 'Tea Party movement' to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures."

Have you ever just stopped to consider that you have been misled about the Tea Party and what you understand they stand for?

As Ronald Reagan once said, "It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so."

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFallenstar

Dan,

Not to be too blunt about it, but maybe you ought to reconsider the crowd that you hang out with.

As a Tea Party supporter, and an expert in influence operations, let me be so bold as to say that you have allowed your views, which you admit are not supported by reality and facts, to be shaped by a limited set of experiences and inputs.

You admit that you do not know any Tea Party supporters. You admit that your media consumptions is limited to biased sources (HuffPo, NY Times, Politico).

Were you to allow yourself to mingle with us, you'd find that we are a bit more normal than your fevered imagination and your biased sources portray us.

Were you to open yourself to other sources of information besides your choices of biased media, you'd find that there is more to heaven and earth than you may have imagined.

While your polling results are interesting, they are redundant. You could have analyzed other polls that demonstrate the exact same results (which, of course you hadn't heard of because your sources for information are biased against this information, including the NY Times, which found the same results you did in their own poll, but of course did not put the results on their front page.)

Here are just a couple of polls that demonstrate the same thing yours did (just use "education" as a surrogate for "scientific knowledge."):

1. Gallup, 2010: http://www.gallup.com/poll/127181/Tea-Partiers-Fairly-Mainstream-Demographics.aspx#2

2. NY Times poll of Tea Party supporters, 2010:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/14/us/politics/20100414-tea-party-poll-graphic.html?ref=politics#tab=9


In case you labor under the misapprehension that your professional milieu is somehow representative of Americans, there are abundant sources that, should you open yourself to continued cultural shocks, will disabuse you of your ignorance.

Here's a great one: John McGinnis's survey of American law school professors' political donations (a pretty solid proxy measurement for political beliefs):

http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2006/05/viewpoint-diversity-in-the-legal-academy.html

To quote McGinnis, the results showed that: "As the Anglican church was once described as the Tory Party at prayer, the legal academy today is best seen as the Democratic Party at the lectern."

ABA's online journal, reporting on an analysis of political contributions by law professores, found 95% donated to Obama.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/law_profs_campaign_contributions_overwhelmingly_favor_democrats/

A great quote from their reseach: "Law professors who donated money to the parties at Harvard, Chicago, Michigan, Stanford, Texas, UC-Berkeley and Pennsylvania gave 100 percent of it to the Democrats."

Source: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/09/law-prof-presid.html

Hope these details help to shine some light into your cloistered existence.

If you'd like to experience life among Tea Party supporters, just let me know. Come on down to Virginia, or North Carolina. I'll be presenting my reseach results to a Tea Party affiliated group in NC in Nov.

All the best.

Kent Clizbe

www.kentclizbe.com

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKent Clizbe

The thing that grabbed my attention was that you didn't know a single Tea Party member but you allowed cable dolts at MSNBC and so forth to form your opinions of them.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSkeptic

Dan - I'm curious as to the data in the Tea Party histogram. I see in your text that 19% of respondents identified as Tea Party members. Does the histogram in question represent that 19% against the other 81% of respondents or does it compare that 19% to others who identified as right leaning or conservative. I found your results via a conservative website that concluded, based on the results in the Tea Party histogram, that liberals had a lower level of science comprehension than Tea Party members. Nothing in your results states or clarifies that, so I would be interested in seeing a comparison of Tea Party members against the other respondents who were right leaning as well as against those respondents that were left leaning.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

"But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party. All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I'm a little embarrassed, but mainly I'm just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view."

Out of curiosity, has it changed how you view your media sources, considering that an element of the picture you have painted for yourself via those media sources has been shown to be off?

That is not a vote to watch a different station or go to some other form of media, but I would like to know how if you look at the sources you have cited in a different light now.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike S.

The combination of your statement that you don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party, and yet ~20% of your sample does so, is more of an illustration of how careful those of us who hold conservative views in academia have to be. All of my colleagues reflexively assume that their (Liberal/Progressive) views are shared by everyone else in the room, because 'we're all smart.' In many cases, 'smart' is more or less defined as 'agreeing with the liberal worldview.' To publicly admit to holding conservative views gets you shunned, slandered, and disparaged in the professional arena, even when (like me) you work in the hard sciences and politics has no relevance to your research. Just look at the amount of hate in the comments above, made by the sort of people who like to think of themselves as open-minded, tolerant, reasonable, and educated. I promise that you know people who are conservative, socially and professionally, but who know it's not safe to come out of the closet.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBioSci

I have been in medicine and research for 50 years and have never seen good publications by authors who pre-judge and thus taint their research. How could you possibly have an unbiased mind, when it is filled with the propaganda of a political agenda of media. Certainly, if you were also a Limbaugh or Hanniity follower who, subscribed to your current news and information sources, you could maybe appear as unbiased but, to even have received such a sentence as this is, clearly demonstrates your disqualification as an impartial scientist. Don't you feel just a tad bit awkward publishing, so called science when, in truth it has become a political article as opposed to reporting the complete truth? It is truly sad when, the science community becomes contaminated by ANY non-scientific influence. It medicine, we have more of an immediately responsive atmosphere and can correct threatening circumstances immediately. Experimenting with the politico-intellect anal exam of a group in one's writings can't be corrected, if something is wrong, until many years later, when the consequences are there for all to see. Walk carefully and make certain, you don't lead your readers astray.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

After reading the article and replies, I must agree with GD's assessment. The problem is that our government (both "sides") are fueling this "us vs. them" country we now find ourselves in by their endless manufactured crisis after crisis where they can continue to pit one side against the other. While the citizens are pointing fingers and blaming the "other side" we should instead blame the establishment on both sides. Career politicians whose only goal is to retain power are killing this nation.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGary Kline

Why should there be any correlation between science comprehension and political ideology at all? To assume that you have to assume that truth has a political bias - a bad assumption that most Progressives make. Even when you get to the most politically charged science - that of global warming - the conflict is not really about science at all. It is about morals, political values, struggles for power, and assumptions as to how societies and economies work. Most opponents of global warming regulation often argue that the science of the proponents is flat out wrong simply because that is an easier and simpler political argument to make than the notion that there is some truth in what the warmists say but it is folly to try to do anything about it. In politics, simple arguments are better than complicated ones. Politics is about winning, not truth.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew P

You need to get out more, Professor Kahan. Chesterton has (as always) a quote that applies:

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men…In a large community, we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized society groups come into existence founded upon sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbap

Good to see someone on the left who is willing to change his mind when faced with contrary facts. Most of today's leftists lack any of that open mindedness that used to characterize liberals.

Of course, if you look at the traditional definition of "liberal" - letting people live their own lives rather than doing what the government dictated - you might find that the Tea Party is the only major political orientation that is truly liberal.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWarren Dew

Professor, I pity you.

You have challenged the universal liberal assumption of superiority.
And you will pay.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRS

I'm a fiscally conservative gun owner who became an academic in early middle age. I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana, deporting illegal aliens, allowing gays to marry, downsizing government, and limited use of the death penalty. I've been a soldier, a cop, and a business man before being hired to teach in a university that most Americans have heard of. I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal church, but would now describe myself as an agnostic. I have NEVER worked in an environment with less intellectual diversity and stronger group think than my current Ivory Tower place of employment. Faculty meetings look like the bar scene in Star Wars with one of everything, but the pressure to conform is strong in this "industry", and despite bleatings about intellectual freedom, alternate points of view are not really welcomed. Most academics have never spoken at length with anyone who would self-identify as a "tea bagger", anymore than they have had a chat with a jihadist.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMickey

High school drop outs vote democrat 90% + of the time.

A full third of the democrat electorate is functionally illiterate.

The national debt rapidly approaches $17,000,000,000,000.

(Hint: You can divide the debt by the number of warm bodies in the US, but you will have to change the calculator in windows from "standard" to "scientific" first.)

Maybe, just maybe, you should spend a little bit of the time you spend looking at charts and graphs to ones that show US economic and fiscal policy data?

Left wing politicians tell you "Them conservative economists is reel dumb, with all their numbers and math and stuff, they don't know how to feel what sounds all warm and fuzzy for the children!" and you take that as the final word on the topic?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTesticules

Look at the "debate" these imbeciles are having regarding your blog post:

http://f2bbs.com/bbs/show_topic/880564

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJF

I think a good place to start understanding some of the ideas you've raised here is a thorough reading of Hayek's The Counterrevolution of Science, within which he gives a detailed treatment of how the methods of science can be misapplied to the study of social phenomena - an abuse he referred to as "scientism"...

Hayek further elucidated on the abuse of reason in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974, "The Pretense of Knowledge"... Here, he distinguishes between simple phenomena (typical of physics, chemistry, and other basic sciences) and complex phenomena (as seen in the study of biology and social sciences such as economics)...

His overarching conclusion is further summarized in "The Fatal Conceit" - that is, the hubris of the "constructivist rationalist" leads him to imagine that he can use reason to create a social condition that comports better with his sense of justice than that which spontaneously emerges based on the morals, habits, and traditions of individuals....

This idea is artfully summarized in one of his more famous quotes: "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they know about what they imagine they can design"... This admonishment is directed squarely at those to whom Adam Smith referred as the "Man of System" in his treatise, "A Theory of Moral Sentiments:

"The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder."

It's a matter of historical fact that the founding fathers were philosophical liberals in the tradition of David Hume, Adam Smith, and the other moral philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment... And while some were influenced by the French rationalists (certainly Jefferson to some degree), their contribution of American Constitutionalism was rooted in the English traditions of several property, individual liberty, and the rule of law...

I believe that the vast majority of those who identify with the Tea Party are motivated by an appreciation for these principles - and they regard the cold socialism on the welfare state as a threat to these principles... Whether or not they explicitly understand how the moral behavior of individuals determines the character of the civil society that emerges from it, they do recognize the importance of morals, culture, habits, and traditions - and the role that religious belief plays in sustaining these from one generation to the next...

They are generally referred to as "conservatives", and many may well be aptly described - but more precisely, I think most Tea Party adherents seek only to conserve the Liberal traditions upon which the political order was founded...

I am a twice-degreed electrical engineer... I am also what some might call an atheist (as was Hayek)... I am constantly in awe of the achievements of science to improve the lives of mankind... But I am also saddened to see how stunningly blind most educated, "scientistic" people are to the limits of their knowledge... We are blind to the real complexity of human society, and because of this, we think we can fashion it more to our liking - just as the watchmaker tinkers with a watch...

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Barton

Geebus. Did this post get linked at Stormfront?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Could this be explained by Tea Party members being more likely to be white males and white males scoring better on scientific comprehension scores?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterQuestioner

"But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party. All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico)."

"Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for."

At least you had the courage to post findings which were obviously at odds with your own bias. Most in academia would simply alter their data or at least deem the results such an abberation as to be unworthy of publication. I'd submit that many of the various political and moral assessments which you affirm (one wouldn't wish to commit outright blasphemy) may warrant a little exploration outside the echo chamber. My own bias is showing....sorry.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLL

Poor Joshua, with his "Stormfront", reference is typical of those who love to label, but hate to debate. No doubt he has been well schooled that anyone who disagrees with the cant prevalent at the academy is either stupid or evil, and very likely both.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMickey

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