The Republican party has long-been considered the Anti-Science party for its outright denial of climate change and evolution. It’s even been suggested that people who identify as liberals are more intelligent. But that doesn’t preclude liberals from having their own major set of biases when it comes to science.
A new study by professors at the Ohio State University has found that liberals harbor anti-science beliefs when it comes to nuclear power and fracking. The study asked 1,518 people across the country to review a “new educational website about science,” but researchers were interested in their reception of “well-accepted scientific facts.” OSU communications professor and study co-author R. Kelly Garrett said, “Our point is there is evidence of bias on both sides, although the bias may appear on different issues.”
Still, this does not mean that both sides are biased in equal measures. “Liberals may be biased about some issues, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong about humans causing climate change,” said co-author Erik Nisbet. “You can’t say our study supports the climate denialism movement.”From OSU:
Both liberals and conservatives felt more negative emotions when they read the scientific pages that challenged their views compared to those who read about the scientifically neutral topics (geology and astronomy).
However, the negative reaction of conservatives when they read about climate change and evolution was four times greater than that of liberals who read about nuclear power and fracking.
Both liberals and conservatives showed evidence of motivated resistance against the facts related to the science topics that challenged their political beliefs.
But again, conservatives reacted more strongly than liberals.
Perhaps the most important finding from the research was that talkiing about science in political terms has polarized the subject, hardening both parties to science. “Even liberals showed lower trust in science when they read about climate change and evolution, issues about which they generally agree with the scientific community,” said Garrett. “Just reading about these polarizing topics is having a negative effect on how people feel about science.”
It may not be surprising, but “Demonizing whole groups of people, saying that they are inherently incapable of understanding science, is not only false, it is not an effective communication strategy,” Garrett cautioned, with the media in mind. “Everyone can be biased. Calling people names is not a solution.”
(Photo: Daniel Foster)