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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)

>All my impressions come from watching cable tv...and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus... sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

And I'd like to see a bar chart correlation of "scientists" and the media they get their "facts" from. Of course, the only bars I really understand are those that have neon signs in the windows.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterO Tempora

The author of “Some data on education, religiosity, ideology, and science comprehension” is an ignorant slut.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTJC

I teach in Australia after doing a PhD in the UK. I get a laugh when people throw in the Fox News or Rush comments: I don't have cable TV, and barely know who Rush is.

As is the case for, I would guess, most conservatives in academia, I spend my day surrounded by people of the left. I don't think it is conservatives who live in a bubble...

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Geebus. Did this post get linked at Stormfront?

Ah, people who think rationally about money and the rule of law are obviously Nazis.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDB

Ah, OK. Politico.

Welcome to the big leagues, Dan.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

In 2010, the New York Times did a survey and found out that Tea Party members are more educated than the average American.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html?_r=1&

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLatin2

"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."

You'd likely be very surprised how tea-partyesque most engineers are. The folks that build your cellphones and microprocessors deeply understand the numbers, and are overwhelmingly libertarian and/or tea party in their leaning. We consume numbers all day, and it takes about 30 minutes of learning to understand just how dire the country's financial situation is.

It's not that those on the right don't want to help those in need. Far from it. But what they do want to build is something that is sustainable AND encourages the right behavior among the citizens. And there isn't anyone out there claiming what we have today is sustainable. Those in charge are simply hoping they can get their slice before the wheels fall off.

And they said George Bush as incurious. If my business was studying the intelligence of the population, I'd be embarrassed admitting I hadn't met such a large swath of the population. Yet, this author takes joy in the fact. Or else he's just laying the groundwork to defend his findings from his peers. Either way, such a shame there's so little curiousity in academia these days.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBSEE

Geebus. Did this post get linked at Stormfront?

Ah, OK. Politico.

Welcome to the big leagues, Dan.

This just underscores what many commenters here have pointed out, to wit, that this academic bubble, funded with money printed from thin air (because nobody would actually freely *choose* to pay for so-called "research" and commentary such as the drivel listed along the left side of this page) is utterly out-of-touch with reality.

The proof is the immediate assumption, when confronted with counterpoints to the groupthink-bound theme, that the commenters must be Neo-Nazis or terrorists, or otherwise associated with groups on SPLC's hit list.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDB

It's interesting to see all the comments here, which I guess come from the Anthony Watts link.
But I think some may have missed the main point of Dan's post by focusing on 1 or 2 sentences.
His main point is that the media/lefty/academia view of the right as being anti-science is wrong.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

"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)."

This told a lot about the professor. I have some advice for you, get out of your little world and expand your horizons. Most people I know who are TEA Party people who question science want to know more. They don't blindly accept what is being told, but scientists hate having anything of their questions and that's where the problems come in. Science hates to be questioned by the common person.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAJ Marks

Dan Kahan writes: "But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party."

How does Kahan know this? On its face, his statement seems likely to be wrong, given that the number of academics who share the "Tea Party" values of limited, effective government and fiscal responsibility is a lot greater than zero.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElihu

Thank you for sharing these results and for your candor. I suspect that a great deal of the emotion flowing within our current political environment is related to the information bias to which we are all increasingly at risk. We tend to self-select towards information sources that confirm our biases rather than exposing us to a range of alternating views, and worse, we increasingly receive information based not on confirmed facts, but upon the opinions of the sources and upon unconfirmed suppositions, such as those well published, but poorly supported regarding the tea party.

We need more objective data regarding not just divisive issues, but also the various "actors" or entities playing a role in our fairly rapidly evolving political and social environment. With that, you and I can have a discussion about our disagreements based on understanding and not on misunderstanding.

"Don't tread on me"

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStevo

i'm not surprised that some tea partiers are educated. they are all hard science/math types who have no clue how the world works.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfelin

You've probably met lots of students who agree with the Tea Party but don't say anything about it because of your obvious bias and your control over their grades.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Given the news sources you use, I suspect one factor in your misunderstanding of Tea Partiers is the assumption by many on the left, and especially in the media, that Tea Partiers are necessarily socially conservative. My admittedly anecdotal exposure to the Tea Party movement has been that Tea Partiers are extremely conservative when it comes to economics, but are for the most part agnostic on social issues, or consider social issues far less important than economic, regardless of their social views.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ1

"His main point is that the media/lefty/academia view of the right as being anti-science is wrong."

I think the commenters largely understand that. That is exactly why they are here. The question really is, what is the good professor doing to share this news with the media/left/academia world that lives in its own bubble of myths.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwtfci

There does appear to be a reflexive "this can't be right" reaction from many. Interesting.

I'm a libertarian-leaning conservative, probably closer to the Tea Party than any other group, and I have to say the bigotry is ugly, and it is frustrating. It keeps a lot of similarly situated conservatives in the closet, not unlike other disfavored groups in years past. A friend of mine pointed out it would be much easier to come out as gay in Sweetwater, Texas, than it would be to come out as conservative on a Wachowski brothers movie set, for example.

This is due to the same prejudices the author just confronted in himself

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrdbrewer

There are a couple of things missing in this study:
- Initially, the comparison is between college grads and non-college grads. However, there is no correlation between people who associate themselves with the Tea Party who are college grads versus those who are not. I wonder if the curve wouldn't be closer to the initial graph.
- the same thing applies to the question on religiosity.

The problem with leaving this out is that there is no way to determine if a fair sample was made of any of the groups. There is no control since if you intentionally select 1000 high school dropouts who are religious and 1000 Masters degree holders who are not, the scale will be skewed. As the author himself said, education level matters.

As to the authors comments about choice of media - the selection of media does matter. But so does thinking. Example? The government closure debate. We heard over and over on every media outlet (including Fox) that if we didn't extend the debt ceiling, that we would default on our debt. This was and is absolutely false. The debt payments have absolutely NOTHING to do with the amount of debt we can run up. Payments on the debt are made from receipts to the treasury, not from money that we borrow. Income to the treasury has been more than sufficient to make our interest payments (the principle is another thing entirely, though). So the REAL lesson is that it is up to us to vet the news we get, regardless of the source. We are regularly lied to by our media (whether intentionally or not). It is our responsibility in a representative republic to investigate and learn what we need to in order to know the truth. Otherwise we are nothing more than children being led around by corrupt politicians.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

It is telling that so much effort is expended on trying to prove that people you disagree with politically are intellectually inferior. At the very least it tells us that you are morally inferior as you would judge others using vague and imprecise measurements.

It is likely that it also tells us of a at least a slight tendency towards narcissism and likely a closed mind.

Pauline Kael sums up the progressive mind best when after the 1972 Presidential election she said, ‘I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.’”

You would think that a group of people who pride themselves on education and enlightenment would understand how their attitudes and actions refute their own self image. But, like the men chained to the floor of the Cave, their reality cannot be challenged.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Joshua, very interesting discussion, but just to make a single comment: Of all modeling possibilities, why correlation? I mean, the amount of confounding going on in this data set is likely huge, and without any type of adjustment the likelihood of driving wrong conclusions (in any direction) is huge

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

If anyone wants to talk about scientific findings that turn media-based stereotypes inside out, they can chew on this:

In the late 1970s, William Sims Bainbridge and Rodney Stark produced one of the most important studies of religious and secular attitudes undertaken by modern sociology The results of that study were presented at the January, 1980 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco. A summary of their study, along with a commentary by the authors, was published as “Superstitions, Old and New” in the Summer 1980 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer (that’s right – The Skeptical Inquirer!)

I won’t trouble you with the details of their research or the comparative tables they used in their analysis, since we don’t have space for that information here (and it’s readily available via the pages of TSI, in any case). But let me offer you some excerpts from their profoundly counter-intuitive conclusion. What follows is quoted from the authors’ Skeptical Inquirer article.

“(I)t would be …a great mistake to conclude that religious liberals and the irreligious possess superior minds of great rationality, to see them as modern personalities who have no need of the supernatural or any propensity to believe unscientific superstitions. On the contrary, we shall see that they are much more likely to accept the new superstitions. It is the fundamentalists who appear most virtuous in terms of scientific standards when we examine the cults and pseudo-sciences proliferating in our society today.” (p.22,)

In discussing the evidence for their conclusion, they say:

“As a whole, table 3 shows two very interesting things. First it reveals that “born-agains” are much less likely than other students to accept radical cults and pseudo-scientific beliefs. Second it reveals that the group with no religious affiliation is receptive to these unscientific notions. On three of the seven items, in fact, those with no religion are most favorable toward occultism. . . . Those who hope that a decline in traditional religion would inaugurate a new Age of Reason ought to think again.” (pp. 26-27)

And again:

“Persons with no religious affiliation are often among the first to toy with novel or exotic supernatural notions and are not the secular rationalists we might want to think them . . . Therefore, a further decline in the influence of conventional religion may not inaugurate a scientific Age of Reason but might instead open the floodgates for a bizarre new Age of Superstition.”(p.30)


Social scientists Bainbridge and Stark put their main conclusion bluntly: “Strong religion prevents occultism.” (p. 27) We could easily add, “And weak religion encourages it.”

So – all the militant secularists out there can quit patting themselves on the back for their greater intelligence and rationality. The reality is that aggressive secularism may or may not stimulate a mass exodus from “conventional religion”; but even if that were to happen, we already know (scientifically!) that it wouldn’t stimulate the mass production of skeptical rationalists. On the contrary, it would remove one of the last effective cultural barriers to mass superstition. The fact is, atheists and secularists who attack religion aren’t laying the groundwork for a culture of rationality, they are clearing the ground for a culture of runaway delusion.

It is high time for the fans of rational thinking to wake up and realize who their real friends are – and who they are not. Edmund Burke (as usual) got it right: “Freedom, and not servitude, is the cure of anarchy; as religion, and not atheism, is the true remedy for superstition.”

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrooks Alexander

This is due to the same prejudices the author just confronted in himself

Recognition, yes. Confrontation? Not in evidence.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDB

It saddens me to read your article, that this was surprising to you, and you don't know anyone who agrees with the tea party. I have a Ph.d in a hard science, used to be a professor at a university and have a law degree. I think Ted Cruz should be president. The democrats shut the government down. It is the House of representatives constitutional right to appropriate as they see fit. A 17 trillion dollar debt is obscene.

Unlike you, I have friends, yes friends, that have different political opinions than me, progressives, maybe even socialists in the true, European sense of the word. Of course we don't agree about politics, but we do enjoy fine food and wine, and many lively discussions.

It is time for you to wake up and join the real world, and have a few conversations with people who don't think like you do. Live a little. Stretch your mind.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSFA

Professor,

First-year undergrads in statistics are taught "correlation does not equal causation" and "always look for hidden variables."

It is well know that Tea-Party members are, on average, more wealthy than the average American. Wealth also correlates with education.

For this study to have any validity, you need to do an apples-to-apples comparison; that is, disaggregate the data by socioeconomic status and compare only within the same socioeconomic status.

I bet you will get different results if you compare Tea-Parties in a given socioeconomic group with the same average American IN THAT SAME socioeconomic group.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjabnsf

The results and interesting and not what I expected. I expected as most others stated that there would be a negative correlation between tea party affiliation and scientific literacy. Other people have referenced a 2010 survey, but how many people remember the 2011 survey that stated, "Half of the people who identify with the tea party in a new poll reject the science of global warming (50%) and evolution (51%)."

"They are mostly social conservatives, not libertarians on social issues. Nearly two-thirds (63%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and less than 1-in-5 (18%) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry."

You cannot be scientifically literate if you deny the reality of evolution.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Wow! I'm impressed that you worked with a representative national sample, that 19% admitted Tea Party leanings (my best guess is 23-24% of the country lean that way), and that you didn't discard your data as an anomaly!
As a Tea Party member (right now, under the umbrella of Tea Party Express, though I'll likely soon switch to Freedom Works' sphere of influence), I'm gratified to see anything come out of the academic community that doesn't paint us as racist knuckle-draggers. Just because I personally don't have opposable thumbs doesn't mean that the description is valid for the TP majority.
Personally, my skill set is heavily weighted to the subjective arts: writing, music, comedy, acting & art. Hence, I naturally leaned politically to the left-liberal end of the spectrum. However in my early 20's, after watching Liberalism Run Amok in my native NYC, I cauterized my bleeding heart and sealed my open mind, leaving only a narrow wind tunnel between my ears for ventilation - and for venting.

While the media portrays Tea Partiers as forming in reaction to the high levels of the Chief Executive's cutaneous melanin, they actually formed in reaction to a CNBC rant by Rick Santelli on the floor of the NYSE ("Stop spending! Stop spending! Stop spending!"). We were already in shock from having the word "trillion" being bandied about in the context of Annual Deficits, and from undeclared financial Martial Law like not paying GM & Chrysler bondholders first, or handing Bank of America to the Oracle of Omaha.

Now, from my personal perspective:
1) I was very concerned with the anti-Wall Street tone of the Administration, fueled by - and in turn fueling - the average folk, many of whom decided not to pay their mortgages, credit card bills, etc. There was no talk of the thousands of deals brokered by the financial community which created tens of millions of jobs and great wealth - only of their occasional malfeasance and their offering of (using 20-20 hindsight) unstable financial instruments which brought a dip.
While I couldn't accept the Right's narrative that the fault lay 90% with the government (pushing banks to give more sub-prime mortgages to drive up home ownership among the working poor, then openly hinting to FNMA & FHLMC that the US would make good if there were ever losses, causing them to sell junk mortgages to Wall Street as AAA paper, etc.), I equally couldn't accept the Administration's narrative that the fault lay 90% with greedy bankers & financiers (who paid off hapless regulators, de-fanged by Bush's anti-regulatory zeal, to look the other way as they raped the country for personal gain). (P.S. Haven't seen anyone but Lehman Bros. pay for the financial lunacy - neither in government nor in finance. Perhaps a public trial would've shown us that "it's complicated", supporting neither viewpoint...)
2) I'm a Constitutionalist, perhaps by perceived self-interest. As part of a traditionally persecuted minority, I believe that if we allow the Constitution to be waived today for my benefit, it may just as easily be ignored tomorrow to my detriment.
3) I'm a Contrarian, likely due to a combination of natural cynicism and a predisposition to grumpiness. So, when I saw the knee-jerk vitriolic reaction of politicians and media to the newly formed entity ("AstroTurf", "teabaggers", etc.), I decided I needed to experience it for myself So, I went to the next Tea Party in Indianapolis, on the State Capital grounds. I closely watched people's faces, their reactions to applause lines, and their reaction to Jews (myself), African-Americans, counter-protestors, etc. I saw & experienced no hate, no corporate toadying, no reactionary zeal. (I did get to meet a number of weird dudes, a part of humanity I dearly love.) Yes, A-A's were underrepresented, as were Generation Y's & Hispanics. But among this [somewhat] diverse group, conviviality and bonhomie reigned.

In my mind, it's the difference between dealing with most issues, where you work with the group, color within the lines, go along to get along, and dealing with THAT ONE ISSUE where you put your foot down and say, "I'm sorry. This is totally NUTS! I will NOT keep my mouth shut! This must stop NOW!"
With a few expenses beginning to careen out of control - like Medicare for Baby Boomers, Fed debt to Social Security coming due, trillions in cat-in-a-bag derivatives bouncing around the globe, declining international oil production, etc., I dread what can happen if multiple crises hit concurrently.
Small example: What if there's a slowdown in China, which causes that they don't have extra cash to buy T-Notes - or worse, they dump T-Notes - which forces us to pay 5% interest on new notes to sell them. Does the deficit then balloon, lowering our credit rating & forcing us to pay even higher interest, causing the deficit to exceed our ability to cover it? Does inflation then rise? Do the extra costs of borrowing keep businesses from expanding, pinching our tax base? Does money then flow out of the US to the EU, Africa or China, pinching our tax base even more?
And yes, I do accept the Right's contention that the only way to solve these accruing problems is to "grow our way out of them", especially after our national debt passed our annual GDP. That requires a pro-business environment with rules that are few, clear, and strictly enforced. Taxes that are reasonable (25-33.3%, total), understandable & collected immediately, etc., etc.

My bottom line: I didn't join the Tea Party because I understand science. I joined the Tea Party because I know math...

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYisroel

I am a mechanical engineer and have been working in the PRIVATE SECTOR manufacturing industries for over 25 years. All the engineers I know are Tea Party Types all the private sector non union working stiffs that I know are also Tea Party Types and all the small business owner/operators are tea party types. I think what we have is a communication problem. You can't put your trust in the liberal media to identify the traits of Tea Party Members. We are not a group of wild eyed radicals. You won't see a Tea Party Member defecating on a police car like you would see at an Occupy event. We don't want anarchy, we understand that there is a need for government and we are a group of people that regularly volunteer in our communities. We generously give to charities. We believe in helping the poor and disabled. Talk to us and get to know us on your own don't trust Politico. Nobody from Politico ever talked with me so how do they know what I believe.

But we also believe in individual liberty, property rights, limited government that operates within the bounds of our constitution and in general, we don't approve of the nanny state regulating every aspect of our lives. We tend to be fiscally conservative (live within your means) and socially libertarian. I don't think most of us would object to same sex partnership sharing benefits, but definitely don't want them desecrating our institution of marriage. Go ahead and smoke your pot but just don't operate heavy machinery around me. How about some common sense, courtesy and class. Go to a Tea Party event and after it is over you won't see one piece of trash on the ground unlike going to a liberal protest event. Most of us Tea Party folks are strong individualistic types that don't need government programs to provide our living. We'll take care of ourselves "thank you very much".

In summary, I would be willing to bet that most of us Tea Party Folks are people who have worked years in the private sector and have just had it with Academia, Law, the Main Stream Media, the Federal, State and local governments squeezing the life blood out of us and demanding more. We just don't have more to give! If you don't stop regulating us (example the sea change in energy by Fracking for natural gas and oil) and taxing us to death, there won't be any tax revenue. And weather you liberals like to admit it or not, the true wealth in this nation is not created by government but in the private sector. So quit killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Let us do what we do best, build things, make things, provide services and make money!

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark

If your understanding of what a "Tea Partier" is comes from "watching cable TV" and "reading the paper", then I submit you don't know what the Tea Party is or what it stands for, and I say that as someone who doesn't count himself as belonging to the group.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay W.

Dear Professor Kahan,
I arrived here from Politico. Given your news sources, I'm not at all surprised at your negative impression of the TEA Party. They've been demonized in the liberal media beyond anything I've ever seen in the sordid political sphere. The racist canard has been thrown about so often, it has become meaningless.

My spouse and I are retired medical professionals (he's even a double graduate of that other Ivy school) so I'm certain we're literate in science, and we are completely supportive of the TEA Party. They seem to be the only rational actors in budget discussions.

Obviously, some tactics have been ineffective, but their efforts to keep the budgetary issues in the forefront are commendable. As I listen to lawmakers who contend that there is no spending problem, I can't help but doubt their intellectual capacity. There seems to be no connection to reality.

Have you noticed all the physician legislators? The majority are Republicans and were not allowed in the room during drafting of the ACA. Actually, no Republicans were invited to participate. Had you been tuned into FOX, you might have seen the closed door they kept a camera fixed on. Quite absurd and funny.

To get some idea about TEA Party thought, do try Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, the best interviewer on television, and Special Report on FNC at 6 pm, weekdays. Both FOX programs have great political discussions with liberals and conservatives speaking on the issues, courteously.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCTM

It would appear that your information about the Tea Party is largely (exclusively?) garnered from sites and sources that have a vested interest in attacking their character and reputation. Hence your mistaken belief originated with those sources, and their reliability should be re-evaluated. No matter the size or reputation of the source, if they publish propaganda, you are the target as much as whomever they attack.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjg collins

Its amazing how libs refuse to accept the fact that conservatives are bright. Prior to the Revolution 2/3 of the country did not want to go to war with England. The 1/3 that did were viewed as ill-informed, unintelligent, traitorous troublemakers. We are at a similar place in our nation's history. By the way I'm a licensed therapist who graduated in the upper part of my class from a good medical school and in the military was an electronic technician aboard Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines. Science has been my life since I was 17 when I volunteered for the military, during wartime.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWolf DOg

Please remove me from your email list

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

You guys are a bunch of bloviating, self-righteous, over-thinking egg heads. People who disagree with you are not dumb. Ever watch Big Bang? You realize why that show is funny, right? It's because we're LAUGHING at the socially retarded, awkwardly adorable "geniuses" who have ZERO common sense. You're thinking about it too much. Those of us who keep the private sector running (and therefore pay your bloated government salaries) are forever looked down upon by the likes of you. We're good enough to pay your bills, but we're obviously far less intelligent, right? Hmmmm, maybe not so much?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Thank you for your honest results. I am a supporter of the tea party movement and so is my husband. I am a PhD in Biology and he is a PhD in Mathematics. His parents are also members of the tea party, his mother a teacher of disabled children for 30yrs and his father an electrical engineer and physicist. I am not at all surprised by your results. It is extremely unfortunate that the mainstream media, as you mentioned (TV and newspapers), vilify the tea party as awful extremist monsters. We have done our political and economic research and we are convinced that the country is going in the wrong direction and that we need a smaller government. Thank you for also admitting that you didn't actually know anyone that identified themselves as a part of the tea party movement. Most of my liberal friends don't know anyone other than me, and they try to put the tea party down and call us cooks whenever they can. It makes me extremely angry because it shows how closed minded and brain washed they are. I'd also like to point out hopefully to anyone reading my comment where the tea party movement actually came from. The tea party was formed because of republicans who were sick of the republican establishment in the government pretending to be for a small government and making policies for a bigger and bigger government. The tea partiers saw through the republican propaganda machine and saw a need for a new movement with real conservative principles. I honestly don't see how anyone can support a big government, because the bigger the government, the more control they have over our lives. This means that liberals MUST completely trust the government. But I don't and I think it's completely naive to trust politicians. I just wanted to add my 2 cents. Thanks for your article!!

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

And this is why I have no respect for college professors unless they demonstrate that they deserve it. They're generally a very stupid, narrow-minded group of people. They've isolated themselves from the real world, they're isolated themselves to just their own cult, and they think they're the elites of the world and should be revered. When really you're just small men (and women) who isolate yourselves from the real world because you can't cut it in the real world, you isolate yourselves in your own cults because your ideas can't be justified outside of your cult, and you're only capable of being the "elites" of a small outlier group who couldn't even survive if the rest of the people in the world didn't exists. Luckily for me, I went to college for engineering which is one of the few fields that is governed by irrefutable abstract concepts so my professors almost always earned my respect and they did it quickly because any bias they may have is easily refutable and they can be easily discredited and disgrace. But it nearly every other area, and this now includes many of the science because the scientific method doesn't matter to some professors when they *really* believe something, those professors were generally small, insecure people who detest critical thought.

So I find it amusing when people are praising this author when he says "wow, the Tea Party aren't a bunch of knuckle-draggers and the opinions I had of them surprisingly aren't true even though I live such a sheltered life that I've never met one before". This isn't a healthy revelation, this is a demonstration of someone being confronted with the faults of their elective mental disorder and their self-segregating lifestyle. You're seeing a perfect demonstrate of why most people hate college professors. What's readily apparent to everybody with more than half a brain is earth shattering to them.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTony Westover

Knowing how to read statistics is the key to understanding this post, and to understanding that this isn't something that Tea Party members should brag about. Not even close, in fact. Let's start with one of the author's first points:

1. Religiosity correlates negatively with scientific literacy

The author says: "Both science literacy and CRT [Cognitive Reflections Test data] 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."

In other words, religious people are less likely to be scientifically literate. At r = -0.26, the correlation is moderate (which in researcher terms means "wow! this is a significant result, and it's not weak! So few social phenomena correlate this well!"). A correlation of 0 means not related at all. A correlation of 1 means there's a perfect correlation (in real life, this never happens in the social sciences). At -0.26, this is very definitely a noticeable trend. Also note that the p value goes out to 0.01, which means that the researcher set a very stringent standard at which results could be called "statistically significant." What the 0.01 number means is that there is a 0.01 out of 100 chance that these results occurred by chance. That was the statistical standard that the researcher used.

So that point is not very flattering to people who are religious. From these results, we could generalize that the more religious you are, the less likely you are to be scientifically literate. The author does point out, though, that "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." So he doesn't want us to accuse all religious folk of being scientifically illiterate. That's a plus.

2. There is an extremely small (almost non-existent) correlation between the tea party and science literacy

In the author's study about people's beliefs about vaccines, he asked respondents to say whether they considered themselves members of the Tea Party. About 19% said they did. A little over 1000 people participated in the study. What the author found was, "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." He goes on to explain that he was surprised that the correlation showed that Tea Party members didn't show a negative correlation. That sounds flattering, right? But look at his numbers. The correlation is -0.05. That's a very small number. Look again at the number from his other studies about scientific literacy and religiosity: 0.26. That's a huge difference. The correlation between lower scientific literacy and religiosity is much, much stronger than the correlation between increased scientific literacy and Tea Party. In fact, if you remember that a correlation of 0 means no correlation at all, a correlation of 0.05 essentially means no correlation at all. The only reason the author felt it was worth reporting is because the result is technically "statistically significant," which means that it passed the threshold that he set for reporting the results. But wait, look again: The threshold he set for this one was p < 0.03, which means that his standard was not as stringent as for the other studies. If he set the standard to p < 0.01, as he did for the other study, it's entirely possible that there would be no statistically significant results at all to report. We don't know that's the case, because he didn't give us the results at that level, but usually when scientists don't report results at p < 0.01 it means that there wasn't anything to report. So they loosen the standard a bit, and then they find they have something to report. (I don't know the author's reasons for loosening the standard; perhaps there was a better reason that simply to have something to report).

So did he find some statistically significant results? Yes, by a lower standard than his other studies, but yes. Do these results show a correlation toward greater scientific literacy of Tea Party members? Yes, but... no, not really. The correlation is so small at r = 0.05 that it means essentially nothing. It's almost 0. There's about as much likelihood that this result means something in the real world as it is that people who wear blue shirts are smarter than those who wear green shirts. If you did a random survey of what people are wearing, it's possible that a 0.05 trend could be observed completely by chance.

The gist of the story seems to be: "I thought Tea Party people were going to be noticeably less scientifically literate than average, but they're actually average! (or actually, ever so very, very slightly above average, but at least they're not noticeably below average, which is what I expected.)

So, the moral of the story is to know how to read statistics and to look at the data before getting too excited about anything.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Bohman

A correlation of .05 when the scale goes from -1 to +1 is about as close to a zero correlation as you can get. And with your confidence level of p=.05 yes, you may be quite confident this is no correlation at all.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnalytical Statistician

Interesting relationships, Dr. Rahan. But, uhhhh, is this data peer reviewed and published? If not, that's perfectly fine, given that its fun to rehatch data to look for hypothesis forming relationships. HOWEVER, if it is not, I thought you should know that your evening SAS adventures are being cited as though it were solid scientific research on websites like Politico. Am I missing something?

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Liberal cocooning at work. Pauline Kael would not have know anyone who identifies with Tea party, either.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRex Luscat

Maybe the takeaway isn't that Tea Partiers are smarter about science, since the positive correlation isn't that significant; it's that they aren't less intelligent, as the prejudices of some here seem to require.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrdbrewer

I am a Tea Party member, only because I don't like the way the DNC operates politically, especially their leveraging and promotion of racial tensions for votes and their methods of viciously haranguing anyone who doesn't toe the party line. And I don't like the mainstream GOP, especially the theocratic side. The Tea Party gets smeared a lot, and their platform is, in some ways, not very well defined. But I can tell you this about myself:

-I support the rights of gay people to marry by virtue of the fact that if they're required to pay taxes just like me, then they should have all the same rights as me as an adult. It's not the business of government to define what a valid relationship is between two consenting adults.

-I support the right of women to have access to safe and legal abortions, because that is just common sense public health policy, given data about the mortality rates of young women from botch abortions from prior to the legalization of abortion nationwide.

-I also support the rights of churches not to have to support the two above practices if they don't want to. But I also think churches should not be granted tax exempt status just for being churches. They should have to earn it by civic service of their parishioners such as feeding/housing the poor or providing medical services to the indigent.

-I believe the theory of Evolution is a much more valid and supportable explanation of life, than any religiously inspired alternative, by a long margin.

-I think science is about observing phenomena with the goal of deriving rules or mathematical models that can explain and predict future events when possible. I also think that when models fail to predict, they should be abandoned and researchers should go back to the drawing board. I don't think that politicians should get involved with their bombast and whip crowds up into a frenzy to hate anybody who merely points out that a predictive model failed to predict and, therefore, must be an invalid model. Refer to the global climate change debate for examples of this hamstringing of science by political agendas that have nothing to do with science and everything to do with control and taxation without any government services in return.

-I'm an atheist. I don't care if someone believes in God or not. I just know I don't. That's how the world should be in my opinion.

-I'd prefer to see more government and commerce at as local a level as possible, without government picking who gets to be a big box store selling junk to the masses and dumping their employees on non-functional insurance exchanges and who gets to lay off a quarter of their staff because they can't afford to insure them all, wrecking their small business in the process.

-I'm a software engineer with a degree in Statistics.

Most of the stuff I read about the Tea Party is flat out libel right out an Orwell novel, with no connection to reality whatsoever.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFelix

I was amused when Rush read this on his show this afternoon. The NYTimes discovered much the same thing when they did some unscientific research on Tea Party members back in 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html?_r=2&
Reading much of the mainstream press you'd think Tea Partiers are a bunch of red-neck lemmings following the Koch brothers off a cliff. Please recognize there has been a deliberate and concerted effort to discredit Tea Party conservatives and report the most extreme examples possible in every story. Why? Because 19% of the population, well educated, higher income, angry, and activist, have lined themselves up as enemies of the administration and their media backers. They constitute a threat that must be nullified, and they have been.
I would like to comment about the science of climate change. Many many on the right recognize they have limited knowledge on climate change and can't really argue the science. What we see, are governments around the world highjacking the climate change dogma and using it to justify massive redistribution schemes, to attack industries environmentalists despise, and create huge levels of taxation embedded into utility costs that prevents citizens from easily calculating just how much politicians are fleecing from their pockets. One core belief of conservatives is that all humans are flawed. Consequently we recognize that politicians, government bureaucrats, and even scientists, who all claim to want to help us, will inevitably find ways to abuse any power we give them, and that over time, governments, even the very best of governments, seek out ways to exercise more control over the populace, manipulate public opinion, maximize the power of the state, and limit the ability of citizens to control them. Those who claim corporations are equally abusive ignore the reality that corporations don't have the power to forcibly remove money from our wallets or jail us for not doing what they want. The state does, and should a;ways be addressed with a healthy degree of skepticism.
BTW, I would ask you to broaden your reading beyond left wing administration mouthpieces like NBC and the Puffington Post. I don't read much Fox either, but I do read RealClearPolitics, HotAir, theHill and of course the Drudge Report, which is simply an aggregation of stories from across the web.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Cearley

" I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party ...I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for. "

Sure! Being wrong about one thing can't possibly be part of a pattern!

I'll say this much, Occupy and the Tea Party (in its original reaction-against-the-banker-bailout form) had the EXACT same motivations. The ruling monoparty then hijacked both to varying degrees and the media propagandized a reaction to brand as opposed to substance, and people on both the left and right fell for it. In that regard, you remain a perfect sucker.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRollory

Joshua: "If you're funded by the tax-payer, you tend to want to keep them paying. If you're on the edge of going out of business because you're paying far more to the government than you're getting back, you often don't.

Do you have any idea of the % of Republican voters and people who vote for Tea Party candidates get some form of federal support? What is the % of small business people who support Dems?"

Be careful what you ask for. Not surprisingly, more than 70% of small business owners are NOT democrats.

http://www.nsba.biz/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Politics-of-Small-Business.pdf

It amazes me how many people in this country don't grasp that you don't get jobs from poor people and that entrepreneurs who work hard to get ahead in life really don't prefer to vote for the party who claims they're greedy and somehow owe others half of what they earn.

Notice the answer to your question(% of small business owners who support Dems) is 15%. Every single person I've met in my Midwestern state who is a Tea Party supporter is a business owner. We're sick and tired of hearing that somehow we don't contribute enough to society with millions sitting home collecting checks paid for by what? Our taxes and businesses.

The fact that this isn't common sense to you and others is amazing. I don't mean to insult - I'm quite serious. But then again, more than half the country thought it made sense to elect a community organizer instead of a highly successful CEO, so common sense isn't something I think most in this country have anymore.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Limited and anti-government types have historically been extremely well-educated and highly intelligent.

Lord Acton, a noteworthy anarchist, was actually one of the greatest historians of his time, and also polylingual.
Adam Smith, author of An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations and largely considered to be the father of modern political economy, was actually a professor of logic and later head of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow.
Ludwig von Mises, libertarian economist and economic historian, actually received his doctorate in law from the University of Vienna.
Frederic Bastiat, a french economic pamphleteer, developed the idea of opportunity cost, which is a key concept in microeconomics (and, if you're a Tea Partier, is also important in macroeconomics).
Thomas Paine might only have been a corset-maker and journalist, but he had a powerful command over the English language, suggesting very high intelligence.
Benjamin Franklin, besides easily being the most libertarian individual present at the Constitutional Convention, also invented bifocals, odometers, and lightning rods; he was also a major player at the time in developing theories about electricity.
Lysander Spooner was a lawyer as well as an anarchist.
Henry David Thoreau was a tax resistor as well as an excellent poet (also a historian, naturalist, and transcendentalist).
Stephen Kinsella is actually an intellectual property lawyer by trade.
Henry Hazlitt was a journalist who wrote for, among others, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times; as well as being a libertarian economist and political theorist.
Friedrich von Hayek was one of the major political thinkers of the twentieth century, as well as a nobel laureate in economics for developing the theory of price signals.
Albert Jay Nock was, interestingly enough, an educational theorist as well as a libertarian author.
H.L. Mencken was one of the most influential writers of the early 20th century, as well as hilarious.
Thomas Jefferson, although hardly the ideal example of a libertarian, was a lawyer, violinist, a student of empirical philosophy, and was also polylingual.
John Locke was not just a political philosopher, he also developed theories about consciousness and the individual's perception of reality.
Joseph Priestly, along with being one of the great legal theorists of the Enlightment Era, also studied electricity extensively, and is credited with the discovery of oxygen, which I personally feel makes him pretty damned important.
Alexis de Tocqueville, of course, is one of the earliest sociologists, as well as being a historian.
Friedrich Schiller is largely considered to be one of Germany's most important playwrights. Also, an interesting note, the Opera adaptation of his drama "Willhelm Tell" is the source of the theme song for The Lone Ranger.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe was a German poet, playwright, lawyer, and politician. He also wrote some on the natural sciences, especially morphology and color theory. He is also an early erotic writer.
Ludwig von Beethoven was also attracted to the ideas of the Enlightenment.
If you're familiar with the works of Voltaire, I really need say no more. And if you aren't, you should be.
Additionally, many authors of science fiction and fantasy have libertarian leans, including Robert Nozick, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Heinlein, L Neil Smith (author of the Lando Calrissian trilogy), etc. In fact, Libertarian themes are prominent in science fiction and fantasy. Doctor Who, Star Wars, and even the original Star Trek series display strong libertarian themes, even if occasionally protagonists say or do things contrary to libertarianism.

Early libertarian thinkers were also among the first supporters of compulsory education (Jefferson), assistance for displaced workers (Bastiat), and even a guaranteed minimum income (Henry George). Conservationism, environmentalism, and humanitarianism are common tendencies among libertarians. They just approach these things differently than the left, and thus appear to those left-of-center to be against those things.

Perhaps you should take some time to get to know some tea partiers, or libertarians in general. You may be pleasantly surprised.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNate Fries

I originally posted this from my phone and there were quite a few typos, so I am re-posted a corrected version for the record.

To those of working in the sciences in industry, scientists working in academia look idealogically driven to produce outcomes that match their biases. Academia today is so rigidly leftwing that diversity of opinion among faculty has disappeared from the university. Consensus adherence now drives faculty selection and research. University faculty rarely meet or know anyone who holds a differing viewpoint politically or academically. This should be embarrassing to faculty but today all viewpoints outside the consensus are eliminated through peer review. 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 do not trust science as they used to. They see uniformity of thought where there should be vigorous debate and dissent.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Nelson

Conservatives(minus TP) + TP < Liberals
TP > Liberals + Conservatives(minus TP)

This data doesn't necessarily show that TP's are good at science. It seems more to suggest that non-TP conservatives are REALLY bad at science.

October 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith McLaughlin

Proud Tea Partier, recent departure from registered GOP to Libertarian because the GOP wasn't extreme enough for me, Left Coast Ivy League engineering Masters, non-religious, free-market, civil servant rocket scientist/manager at your service. I bring the same approach to politics as science and engineering: show me the data. Show me a model that envelopes all data (global warming, ahem). Socialism FAILS IN EVERY HISTORICAL EXAMPLE. Socialism CREATES CRAVEN, DEPENDENT PEOPLE. Tell me how current Euro-Socialist states survive indefinitely. Tell me how current Euro-Socialist welfare and health care states prevent social hammocks rather than safety nets. Tell me how Euro-Socialist systems create new wealth and innovations. Tell me how Socialism is compatible with human nature, that it doesn't assume an idealized citizen and deliberately defective bourgeois when neither of those is real, that it is not an overly idealized system as we would say in engineering. Show me those, and I'll believe in them. Until then, I'll stick with the empirical knowledge I have that small governments and free markets are most compatible with true human nature, rather than that idealized in liberal arts colleges.

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt L

Why are you using correlation to measure the difference in scores between two groups? This seems very unorthodox. You should be testing for a difference in means.

Also, it's really necessary to adjust for education, age and sex before presenting this kind of result. If as one earlier commenter said Tea Partiers are better educated, then the slight difference in scores you may have observed is to be expected. On the other hand, if they are less well educated, the difference in scores indicates they have better science comprehension.

As presented this is a misleading result based on the wrong statistical test.

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm surprised that you would form such a fixed opinion based exclusively on news reports and apparently "gossip." I say "exclusively" because you indicated that you didn't know any participants in the movement personally and that your impressions had been shaped by what little media you were exposed to.

I guess I can understand how the poorly educated might be so affected by the not so subtle message that has been repeatedly offered about the Tea Party Movement, but as a trained lawyer myself I can tell you that the composition of the group, and its source of funding, bears no relationship whatsoever to the narrative being presented to you and the general public. By and large they are the younger brothers and sisters of the "Greatest Generation." The one's who missed WWII but fought in Korea; who were old enough to understand the hardships of the Depression and the war. And in many cases they are also the one's that participated in the Civil Rights movement in varying degrees.

They are deeply concerned about the loss of freedom and liberty that they see manifested today. And they feel a deep personal responsibility for the erosion because it occurred when they were in their prime years when these decisions were being made. Many of them have shared that they were so busy with "life" and plowing the furrows of their own existence that they paid little heed to what was going on in Washington and the state houses. They were unaware of the incremental changes that were being made, or because of their incremental character, did not perceive the threat in the manner that they do now. As such they are committed to righting this oversight, even if it means changes that are adverse to their own immediate self interest.

And they are doing their work on a shoe string. This because they are self funded, the claims of funding by the Koch brothers being a fantasy limited to a few large groups and certainly not the numerous small groups that populate the nation. e.g. in excess of 150 unaffiliated local groups in Florida alone.

As for the racial animus and radical bent that supposed pervades their numbers, I've been to scores of meetings and rallies. Not once have I ever seen or heard anything even remotely racial in character. It's actually amusing to think of the blue haired women and hobbled men who gather as a group of terrorists. Just visualize your mother's book club or church choir practice and paint some pirate patches on them and you'll see just how ridiculous the allegation is. Which makes its rubber stamp acceptance by the intelligentsia so difficult to understand.

The point being this: what does it say about the critical thinking skills of our best and brightest in positions of influence in colleges and universities that they would frame fixed opinions about the character of a broad swath of people based solely on media reports and water cooler conversations when these same people express reservations about the accuracy of the media? Especially when they have special skills and training that enables them, indeed requires them as a condition of their profession, to make independent inquiry and judgments based on facts, not speculation.

As much as I sincerely appreciate the admissions you make in your article, it also serves as a harsh indictment of how you and the people you align with socially and professionally are narrow minded and filled with a prejudice that they will not admit. Perhaps the ivory towers of our nation are not the paragons of social virtue that they claim. Get out and go to some Tea Party meetings. You'll find a wide range of people there, and many are professionals of some accomplishment including doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and successful business owners. And as you discovered in your research, most of us are pretty well read on a wide variety of subjects; certainly we are more aware of the fiscal crisis that approaches than the mainstream. It is real and it needs immediate attention or few of the social programs that the socialists take pride in will remain, assuming society remains intact at all.

October 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark Fisher

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