Let me say right up front that I, in no way, am implying that Republicans are all idiots.
OK, politically correct disclaimer out of the way. Now to the data.
Apparently very few scientists can align themselves politically or ideologically with the GOP. A study conducted in July 9, 2009 at the Pew Research Center shows that it is highly unlikely that U.S. scientists go to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck for their political “news.” This come as a big surprise to….no one. But it certainly is an affirmation of the beliefs that are held by many liberals that the higher the level of intelligence and/or education, the less likely one tends towards the Republican way of thinking when it comes to the issues.
It also affirms that many conservatives have an innate fear and distrust of science and believe that knowledge is a dangerous thing that may cause people to actually think and begin to question. Or, as my country conservative grandmother used to say, “get worrisome ideas.” Ideas that can possibly pull a person away from traditional values and the Lord. This is an argument that I, as a Christian Democrat, have to contend with nearly daily. Here’s a heads-up: you can believe in God AND science. Can I get an amen?
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research at Pew said: “These results were not a complete surprise.” He said that scientists identify more closely with Democrats primarily because of “the difference between Democratic and Republican parties with respect to issues.”
The survey indicates that the wide ideological and partisan gap broadened because of the Bush administration’s tendency to dispute scientific consensus on scientifically provable issues such as climate change and evolution. While Keeter acknowledges this factor, he said that past studies have shown similar results and that “many of these disputes probably predate the Bush administration.”
For example, most Republicans promote religion as a basis for their beliefs about scientific issues more often that Democrats.
“Many Republicans, especially the Evangelical wing of the party, are skeptical of evolution, and have argued for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in school,” said Keeter. “The Republican Party has a number of leaders within it who have challenged the accuracy of scientific findings on issues such as climate change, evolution and stem cell research,” Keeter explained. “It suggests that scientists who are Republicans might feel some dissonance from the party’s position on some things that are important to them. And while there are Republicans in the scientist sample, there are really not that many,” he said.
Despite the fact that the study shows that 84 percent of the general public believes that science has benefited society and helped to make life easier for most people, many Republicans continue to scoff at science, with no sign of changing their opinion, especially in regards to climate change and evolution. The percentage of people who believe global warming represents a serious problem hasn’t changed much in recent years. In other words, the same people who were in denial years ago will probably always be in denial. I suspect that in spite of the fact that this was a 2009 study, the data is probably still valid, and it’s possible that many Republicans have become even more distrusting of science (I’m looking at you, Todd Akin).
Where Democrats and Republicans differ the most:
- Public funding is supported by 75 percent of Democrats and only 44 percent of Republicans. D’uh. They want that money for wars.
- Significantly more Republicans favor building nuclear power plants for electricity.
- In regards to climate change, 74 percent of Democrats believe it has been caused by human activity, while only 21 percent of Republicans do. Despite historical records that prove that the Earth is getting warmer, 28 percent of Republicans are in denial about this, while only four percent of Democrats are.
- Stem cell research is supported by 82 percent of Democrats and only 34 percent of Republicans.
Areas in which we (surprisingly) generally agree:
- Science has had a positive impact on society.
- Both parties believe in a God or a higher power. Yes, Republicans, Democrats believe in God, too, contrary to the right-wing attempt to portray the Christian Left as an “oxymoron.”
- Democrats and Republicans are not too far apart in their belief in the Biblical creation theory as opposed to the theory of evolution.
- We are standing side by side in wanting our kids vaccinated. Thank goodness.
- We share an interest in keeping up with science news. Of course, the reasons for doing so are likely different.
Do you feel that you’re knowledgeable about scientific concepts? Take the Pew Research Science Knowledge quiz to find out. I scored 100 percent. Not bragging. Just sayin’. Not bad for a misguided little country girl. Let it be known for the record that I’ve effectively dispelled the idiotic GOP myth that a little learning is a dangerous thing. If you take the quiz, please share your score and your party affiliation in the comments. Maybe I’ll do a little independent survey of my own.
I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.
I put this table together based on the data charts in the study, not the Huffington Post article referenced. In topics that list multiple options and the numbers don’t add up to 100 percent, my assumption is that the remaining percentages didn’t answer the question in the study. Note that the Huffington Post article indicated some slight differences that the actual data in the survey. A possible reason for this is that the author may have grouped together all levels of party affiliation. I pulled the data for Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans and excluded Independents and moderates of the Democratic and Republican parties.
|REPUBLICANS SURVEYED||DEMOCRATS SURVEYED||U.S. SCIENTISTS|
|POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION|
|Republican (general public)||23%||35%||6%|
|BELIEVE SCIENCE HAS HAD POSITIVE EFFECT ON SOCIETY|
|Republican||88%||83%||Not surveyed-Assumed all|
|SCIENCE NEEDS PUBLIC FUNDING|
|SCIENCE INTERFERES WITH RELIGIOUS BELIEF|
|Believes in God or a Higher Power||82%(all Americans-not sorted by political party in study)||51%|
|ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE|
|Evolution Theory(we’ve evolved over time)||23%||36%||87%|
|Creation Theory(supreme being)||26%||22%||8%|
|Reject Both Evolution & Creation(we’ve just always been here)||39%||30%||2%|
|Climate Control is a Serious Problem||47% (general public-not sorted by political party in study)||70%|
|Caused by Human Activity||21%||74%||84%|
|Caused by Natural Changes in the Atmosphere||45%||21%||10%|
|In Denial About Earth Is Getting Warmer||28%||4%||4%|
|IN FAVOR OF ANIMAL TESTING||62%||48%||93%|
|IN FAVOR OF STEM CELL RESEARCH||34%||82%||93%|
|IN FAVOR OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS FOR ELECTRICITY||62%||45%||70%|
|IN FAVOR OF CHILDHOOD VACCINATIONS||71%||71%||82%|
|ENJOYS KEEPING UP WITH SCIENCE NEWS||75%||76%||Not surveyed-Assumed all|
About the Surveys