Why Scientists Hate Republicans

July 15th, 2009 at 12:01 am | 63 Comments |

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The Pew Research Center has come out with a poll comparing scientists’ attitudes (on scientific and other matters) with those of the general public. Among its revelations was that Republicans comprise 6 percent of scientists. That’s not a typo. Meanwhile, 55 percent of the scientists polled were Democrats, 32 percent were independents, and others were none of the above.

Throw in the scientists who are independents but lean toward a party, and the numbers change only modestly: the GOP figure goes up to 12 percent, while the Democrats get 81 percent.

By contrast, Pew puts the Republican share of the general public at 23 percent — a dismal figure but at least well removed from single digits — compared to 35 percent for Democrats and 34 percent for independents. In terms of ideological self-rating, there again is a big gap between scientists and the general public. The breakdown among scientists was 9 percent conservative, 35 percent moderate and 52 percent liberal, while among the general public, conservatives were 37 percent, moderates 38 percent and liberals 20 percent. Throw in “very liberal” as a category and 5 percent of the public goes there, versus 14 percent of scientists.

Given figures like these, Republicans might be tempted to just write off scientists as a source of votes and support. That would be a mistake. For one thing, the Republican Party has an image problem these days, often involving perceptions that the party is lacking in intellectual firepower. Being estranged from the scientific community exacerbates that perception. It makes it harder for Republicans to win the college-educated vote, where the party once had the edge, and winning elections without that edge has proven to be a difficult task indeed.

Moreover, Republican politicians need to have some scientists in their camp if they intend to govern competently when they do win elections and have to address science-related issues. Plus, looking more closely at the Pew data on scientists’ policy views, one sees that there are some opportunities for Republicans to build credibility with the scientific community without turning into liberals or assuming that science and liberalism necessarily come as a package.

Consider some figures from the Pew report: Among scientists, 84 percent think the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity, whereas 49 percent of the public thinks so. So far, so bad; the climate issue clearly has been a major source of tension between scientists and the GOP. But then we learn this: among scientists, 70 percent favor building more nuclear plants (compared to 51 percent of the general public). Is there not an issue there for Republicans to grasp? The Democratic Party is not going to be known for its pro-nuclear enthusiasm anytime soon. Republicans could be, but have been too busy undercutting the pro-nuclear case by denying that a scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming exists.

Similarly, 93 percent of scientists favor the use of animals in scientific research, and 82 percent believe that all parents should be required to vaccinate their children. (The figures for the general public, respectively, are 52 percent and 69 percent.) It requires no great ideological leap for Republicans to point out that animal research, within ethical constraints, is needed (and that the most fervent opposition to it comes from the left), and to disassociate themselves from pseudoscientific anti-vaccination fear-mongering.

Republicans should align with the scientific community when they can, and disagree when they must but couch their disagreements in ways that suggest a respect for the scientific process. It may not turn a majority of scientists into Republicans, but from 6 percent there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Recent Posts by Kenneth Silber

63 Comments so far ↓

  • sinz54

    ottovbvs: FYI, there are many sincere savants who have thought about reconciling Christianity and the Theory of Evolution, and who have concluded that this is doable.

    See, for example, the BioLogos website, sponsored by Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins is a well-known genetics scientist with dozens of published scientific papers. And he was just named by Obama to head the NIH. And he’s a devout Christian.


    Since I’m a Deist, I don’t really care. But it’s important for you not to have the last word on this. Many mainstream Christians have no problem with the Theory of Evolution. it would be a disaster for America, in which the vast majority are religious, if they were told that they had to give up their faith in order to accept science. That notion is by no means proven.

    The Vatican accepts the Theory of Evolution. They just see it as the means of God’s creation.

    And polls show that the percentage of Jews who accept the Theory of Evolution actually exceeds the percentage of atheists who accept it.

  • sinz54

    ottovbvs: That poll I cited indicates something that I’ve seen with my own eyes: Leftists are particularly sympathetic to all manner of “New Age” nonsense, including vegetarianism, naturopathy, astrology, Eastern mysticism, AmerIndian mysticism, and so on. Deepak Chopra and Khalil Ghibran are very Left-wing.

    The Left is also allergic to nuclear power and were active in the ridiculous notion that electric power lines cause all manner of illnesses. And, sadly, it was the Left that popularized illicit drugs like LSD, remember? Timothy Leary was not a conservative. He really believed that hallucinogens helped you achieve a higher state of consciousness. Actually, what they did was destroy your ability to perceive correctly and reason correctly.

    Honest liberals, like P.Z. Myers (cf. the Pharyngula blog) will admit this. He’s a confirmed atheist and absolutely ruthless on mysticism of all kinds. All kinds.

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Jul 16, 2009 at 9:11 am
    ” But it’s important for you not to have the last word on this.”

    ……….Why is it important?……..I’ve read some them starting with Gladstone’s(not all of it he was very loquacious)……..He was a friend of Darwin’s but devout CoE and immediately tried to square the circle but it’s not very convincing……..I don’t question their sincerity just their logic….essentially they are all rationalizations that allow people to hang onto their christian beliefs while not denying irrefutable evolutionary theories………..It does no harm particularly since faith is or should be a entirely personal matter…..a bit like sex…….it’s certainly not a matter of polls……and I’m sure the Vatican has a Jesuitical rationalization

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Jul 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

    “ottovbvs: That poll I cited indicates something that I’ve seen with my own eyes: Leftists are particularly sympathetic to all manner of “New Age” nonsense,”

    …….There’s evidence fringe rightists are sympathetic to Nazism…..Pat Buchanan frequently expresses quasi Nazi beliefs….I do not extrapolate from this that all conservatives are therefore Nazis I like steak but the suggestion that Vegetarianism is an exclusively left wing belief is even more fatuous…….Hitler was one…I believe Mort Zuckerman is one too…….

  • sinz54

    ottovbs: I never said those beliefs were “exclusively” left-wing. Christianity isn’t “exclusively” right-wing either (cf. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Berrigan brothers).

    But that Opinion Dynamics poll showed that some one-third of self-described Democrats believe in astrology and reincarnation, indicating a strong bias toward Eastern mysticism. I lived through the 1960s, when Eastern mysticism and African mysticism was becoming popular among the young counterculture and black rebels. Evidently, 40 years later, they never outgrew it.

    That’s not something that Dems can be proud of. Though it’s not as bad as having 60% of Repubs who believe in creationism.

  • dacookson

    Hold on sinz54, you’re equating creationism with vegetarianism? :lol: Being a vegetarian doesn’t involve irrational beliefs about vegetables, it’s a choice not to eat meat.

    Anyway Bill, my comments were teasing as you say but I stand by the underlying point. I’m sure we’ll pick this up later on other threads. For the record on bailouts, I think you have to bailout under certain conditions but there have to be consequences. I don’t think we’ve seen enough consequences.

  • balconesfault

    sinz: “But that Opinion Dynamics poll showed that some one-third of self-described Democrats believe in astrology and reincarnation, indicating a strong bias toward Eastern mysticism. I lived through the 1960s, when Eastern mysticism and African mysticism was becoming popular among the young counterculture and black rebels. Evidently, 40 years later, they never outgrew it.

    That’s not something that Dems can be proud of. Though it’s not as bad as having 60% of Repubs who believe in creationism.”

    Well, first off, fortunately, while mysticism infiltrates pop culture and the like, I’ve never heard of someone claiming it as a basis for selecting national political candidates, or for justifying a major policy initiative. I will gladly respond with a resounding guffaw if anyone does, the same way I mock people using Christianity as a justification for a legislative initiative or a ballot box decision.

    Second, I see astrology and reincarnation as two very separate things. No, I don’t believe in either one, and yes, I’m very glad that in contrast with creationism, nobody is arguing they should be taught in our public schools.

    But belief in astrology is even more ignorant than creationism, if that’s possible. While belief in reincarnation is on a plain with belief in heaven and hell, or in God him/her/itself.

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Jul 16, 2009 at 10:05 am

    ………..I wonder about your value judgement system sometimes……..New ageism is of zero importance as a factor in Democratic politics……..You might as well say 30% of democrats approve of Rogers and Hammerstein musicals…..it wouldn’t mean they were a factor in Democratic politics……Whereas religiosity is a major factor in Republican politics…..neither apparently do you regard drug taking as a moral failing……I find this imaginary identification of democrats even more odd in the light of the fact that Republican president Reagan and his wife used to consult astrologers…..perhaps you believe Obama gets the ju ju man in once a week

  • barker13

    Re: Dacookson // Jul 16, 2009 at 11:45 am –



  • BoolaBoola

    Barker13, sorry, just read your comment. Yes, my VERY ANGRY, mostly partisan but not partisan in principle, personal blog is AICH TEE TEE PEA://operationcounterstrike.blogspot.com

    And while I am not a scientist, I earned my living for some years making bioreagents (antibodies) FOR scientists, including some of the best in the world. My work has generated several PhDs, just not one for me. I have done technician-level work in more different fields of science than most people could name. (Technicians are the real scientists. They do the experiments. The “scientists” are figureheads and fundraisers. There are exceptions–PhD-level people who do experiments–but not very many. Grad students put dummy-controls on their instruments and label them “Supervisor Only”.) I have written a successful grant proposal for NIH training money (vewy vewy pwestigious) for an MD/PhD combined degree (writing it was easier than doing it….). Now I do scientific tutoring and writing. So I am a member of the magical community although no longer practicing magic my own self.

  • BoolaBoola

    Sinz, you wrote that nuclear disasters in economically dysfunctional economies &/or under corrupt oversight wouldn’t matter because the fault would not be nuclear power but the above complaints.

    You seem awfully sure that we will never have a dysfunctional ecomony nor corrupt oversight in USA. Maybe you could explain why you are so sure? I’m not.

    I’m not talking about abstract nuclear power. I’m talking about the responses of the scientific community to the question whether or not WE should BUILD more nukes. Right now, only two big events are generally known–Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island. What if there were five, including three recent ones, including one caused by terror? Sure, there’d probably still be more support for nukes among scientists than among the public, but it wouldn’t be no seventy percent nohow.

  • barker13

    Re: BoolaBoola // Jul 17, 2009 at 12:39 am –

    Thanks for providing your blog address.

    In case you have any interest, my blog can be found at usalyright.blogspot.com

    “The “scientists” are figureheads and fundraisers.”

    No scientists, no science! No science, no science technicians! (*GRIN*)

    “…(vewy vewy pwestigious)…”

    (*WINK*) Thank you… thank you… thank you!!! Too many people who blog have no frigg’n sense of humor whatsoever. Anytime you can make someone smile it’s a victory of all of mankind!

    Hey… thanks for responding and sharing a bit of your background. I look forward to chatting with you in the future.


  • barker13

    Re: BoolaBoola // Jul 17, 2009 at 12:53 am –

    Speaking for me, myself, and I… the three of us all vote for nuclear power. LOTS of nuclear power!

    As to the risks… according to “our” cost/benefit analysis they’re easily within the acceptable range.



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