Survey: Most conservatives place little trust in science
March 31st, 2012
11:15 AM ET

Survey: Most conservatives place little trust in science

Only a small minority of conservatives now say they place a “great deal” of trust in science, according to a survey published yesterday.

The new result represents a drop of almost 30 percent since the 1970s, according to the study published in the American Sociological Review.

The study says data indicate that the public’s trust in science is largely unchanged since 1974 except among people identifying themselves as conservatives.

Whereas in 1974, 48 percent of conservatives trusted science — about the same share as liberals — the number is now down to 35 percent, a decline of nearly a third in 38 years.

“Conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to liberals and moderates, and ended the period with the lowest,” Gordon Gauchat, the study’s author, wrote in an abstract. In discussing the survey’s results, he adds: “These results are quite profound, because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives.”

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In an interview with US News, Gauchat traced the decline to the 1964 presidential election.

"It kind of began with the loss of Barry Goldwater and the construction of Fox News and all these [conservative] think tanks. The perception among conservatives is that they're at a disadvantage, a minority," Gauchat was quoted as saying. "It's not surprising that the conservative subculture would challenge what's viewed as the dominant knowledge production groups in society—science and the media."

In a poll released today, Gallup found that self-identified Republicans were the most likely to believe that news of global warming was “exaggerated.”

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Nearly 70 percent of Republicans held this view while only 20 percent of Democrats and 42 perecent of independents felt this way.

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Topics: Politics • Science

soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. leowic

    I find it odd how some many well educated people posting has such passionate hatred for conservatives have taken a good look at what they are doing. I bet that most of them would be posting on the articles about Trayvon Martin about the evils of bigotry, stereotyping and profiling. They do not relies that is exactly what they are doing here. For instance: take Allenwoll's statement of "the term 'educated Conservative' is an oxymoron" and replace the word 'conservative' with black man. Is this NOW profiling, just because I changed one word, or is the sentence in-of-itself a bigoted statement.

    As to the proof of what is really going on and the bigotry built into this garbage of an article is that nowhere in the article does it say that conservative choose religion over science. All of you bad-mouthing conservatives have brought that preconceived conclusion yourself. In fact the only thing that the article says is that conservatives used to believe in science MORE than liberals, and that they now do not trust the current reporting system of the science. They think it is flawed, and they will not trust it blindly.

    April 2, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • "He's Dead Jim."

      and no one should trust anyone or anything "blindly".

      April 3, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  2. "He's Dead Jim."

    I am favoring the right. Not very conservative or liberal. I trust science and am agnostic. What I don't trust is the media. I call what you all do (CNN/FOX/whomever) as the "science" of telling "your truth" not "the" truth.

    April 3, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  3. 1tonks

    I don't understand how you could not merge science and God together. This is how he made the world, and very smart scientists to further the development of problem solving, healing, and understanding how our world works. Why would God not want that for you? And why is it so hard for them to believe? Because most of them think the world was made in 7 days, that Adam and Eve, were actually one man and one woman, although the Hebrew translation could also mean, "man/woman" in general, and mostly because they do not realize that the story of Genesis was an adaptation of a story from Sumerian culture, yes, Sumerians, who were pagan! Look it up! Every story passed down was adapted from somewhere and Christians are experts at converting pagan culture and stories to fit theirs. Can we say winter solstice? And even though Jesus was most likely born in June, they moved it to December to enhance the festivities and rewrite the pagan holiday! So really, all Genesis does is promote a lovely story that somewhere and somehow in time, the world was made. And God saw fit to evolve a soul into humans. The rest is history. Science cannot clash with God because science is of God.

    April 3, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Penn & Teller

      **** "I don't understand how you could not merge science and God together."

      I don't understand how you could not merge science and Amun Ra together. I don't understand how you could not merge science and Zeus together. I don't understand how you could not merge science and Santa together. See how silly it sounds?

      One has its basis in fact and the other has its basis in "belief." I once had a "belief" that the Tooth Fairy was real.

      **** "Why would God not want that for you?"

      God wants a lot of great things... such as children in Africa with their ribcages showing, flies in their eyes, parents dead from starvation or HIV, but with a Bible in their hand. How nice of God.

      **** "And why is it so hard for them to believe?"

      The bigger question is why is it so easy for you to believe? Have you read the Bible? It is riddled with error after error after error.

      As a tiny sampling, it contradicts itself starting in THE VERY FIRST TWO CHAPTERS of Genesis when the order of creation is mixed up to having only 2 of the 4 Gospel writers bothering to talk about the birth of Jesus (and those two accounts conflict with each other so badly that their timelines actually make it IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to even have been born based on their accounts) to 3 of the 4 Gospel writers not agreeing on what the final words of Jesus were. If I saw the Son of God die right in front me, I think I'd remember his last words verbatim.... wouldn't you? I think you would.

      Moreover, Jesus had 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters. Isn't it is pretty interesting that Jesus' brothers didn't follow him around everywhere... I know that if my brother were the Son of God, I'd always be at his side every second of the day. Yet apparently, they didn't deem it to be of uber importance. If your brother was the Son of God, wouldn't you follow him everywhere? I think you would.

      Those items are just the tip of the iceberg.

      With that said, logic dictates that one of two things has to be true:

      1) God is an idiot who couldn't remember the order of creation, Jesus' birthdate, Jesus' final words, etc.

      2) God is not an idiot and therefore didn't write the Bible.

      I'll let you decide which you want to believe.

      The Bible is an antiquated book written by uneducated people 2,000 years ago, many of whom would have erroneously believed the Earth to be flat. The facts are that a child in 4th grade today knows more about the world that we live in than did the uneducated men who wrote the Bible. It is ironic that Christians would NEVER let a 4th grader dictate the course of their life, but when it comes to the Bible, then it all of the sudden “magically” becomes OK to do so. It is absolutely mind-boggling.

      If you believe God is intelligent, then you’d realize that he could have never written the Bible because it is riddled with errors. It is a slap in the face of God’s intelligence to even think he could have written something that I wouldn’t have even received a “C” in my English class on because it has so many errors in it. This isn't to say that there isn't a Supreme Being (as one cannot disprove a negative), just that it isn't the one from the Bible.

      And it isn't just Christianity because other religions fall into the same category of fantasy as well.

      *** "Because most of them think the world was made in 7 days"

      Actually, it was made it 6 days.

      **** "that Adam and Eve, were actually one man and one woman"

      How many people do you know that are hundreds of years old? How many talking snakes do you know?

      **** "although the Hebrew translation could also mean, "man/woman" in general"

      Of course because the Bible can be made to justify ANYTHING. Why? Because it is ridiculously va-gue. There is an excuse/rationalization for almost anything. If you want to love your kids, you can justify it. If you want to beat your kids, you can justify it.

      **** "and mostly because they do not realize that the story of Genesis was an adaptation of a story from Sumerian culture, yes, Sumerians, who were pagan! Look it up! Every story passed down was adapted from somewhere and Christians are experts at converting pagan culture and stories to fit theirs. Can we say winter solstice? And even though Jesus was most likely born in June, they moved it to December to enhance the festivities and rewrite the pagan holiday!"

      We agree.

      *** "So really, all Genesis does is promote a lovely story that somewhere and somehow in time, the world was made. And God saw fit to evolve a soul into humans. The rest is history."

      That's profound. A book needed to tell a fictional story about the fact the world was made.

      **** "Science cannot clash with God because science is of God."

      Cool, so then God is in favor of nuclear weapons, abortion, euthanasia, Agent Orange, etc, etc, etc

      April 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Penn & Teller

      Regarding say the Biblical flood story vs science:

      Virtually ALL cultures have mammoth flood stories and Noah's story was "borrowed" from other flood stories that preceded the Bible... just like Jesus wandering in the desert in the NT was lifted from Moses wandering the desert in the OT and just like Moses was lifted from other stories preceding the Bible.

      As for Noah's ark, it is IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to have lived even if he did build the ark.

      Why don't you just ask yourself how the Noah story is possibly true? As a CHILD, I realized that this was impossible.

      Just ask yourself this: Since the Bible is apparently inerrant, how exactly Noah was able to get 2 of every species (7 of some depending on which passage you read since the Bible contradicts itself) on a boat? The story is pretty clearly fiction.

      #1: There is no geological evidence of a global flood that destroyed the Earth.

      #2: The Biblical story of Noah has contradictions in it.

      #3: The only people I know that live to be over 500 years old are fictional. Noah, Gandalf, Yoda, etc.

      #4: How exactly did Noah gather up marsupials that are native to Australia?

      #5: Anyone who has seen the Crocodile Hunter knows that one man grabbing a croc isn't easy work. And anyone who has ever tried to catch a stray cat or dog knows how hard it is... now imagine doing that with 600 pound tiger. Now imagine a multi-hundred year old man doing it.

      #6: How exactly did Noah provide food for all of those different animals when the entire Earth was covered in water? An elephant can eat well in excess of 500 lbs of food per day. Perhaps he just pulled the ark into the floating Costco drive thru window. lol

      The list goes on and on.

      Stop and think about this. That's 40,000 pounds of food alone for just two elephants!!! Now let's throw in 2 blue whales onto the boat. They can weigh around 400,000 pounds each!!! On top of that, they can eat over 8,000 pounds of krill per day!!! That's 640,000 pounds of food just for the whales!!! The weight of the whales and their food now equals 1,440,000 pounds. In comparison, the main space shuttle orbiter has a maximum landing weight of 230,000 pounds. So Noah's Ark would have held the weight of more than 6 space shuttles at maximum landing weight just with the 2 blue whales alone. (none of that even begins to talk about the fact that Noah would have needed to bring along more than 2 (or 7) individual krill to feed those whales.)

      And don't say something like, "The whales could just swim along side the ark" because that much excess water (that supposedly flooded the earth) would have changed the salinity levels in the oceans. If you've ever owned salt water fish before, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Funny how they don't teach that stuff in church huh?

      The above is only talking about 2 species (elephants and blue whales). What about Great White Sharks, Orcas, Grizzlies, Lions, Tigers, Hippos, etc, etc, etc... Never to mind the fact that some animals are carnivores only, so Noah would have needed to bring WAY more than 2 (or 7) animals of some kinds aboard.

      Oh yeah, when Noah (being well over 500 years old) has his ship run aground on top of Ararat, how exactly does he then get all the marsupials back to Australia, all the grizzlies back to Western North America, all the polar bears back to the North Pole, all the anacondas back to South America, all the emperor penguins back to Antarctica, etc, etc, etc? Does he build another boat? lol

      I won't even begin to talk about how we discover new species every single day. But I guess Noah found all of those too.

      Seriously, try to explain the Noah story ON YOUR OWN and you'll see that it has no reasonable explanation. Why? Because it is a fictional story. To believe this story is real, I'll ask for evidence of other 900 year old men (by valid scientific sources), evidence of a flood that covered the earth (King's Holly was found in Tasmania that is over 43,000 years old so the flood didn't happen in the last 43,000 years), etc, etc, etc... You can't provide it because it is a fictional story. It is basic common sense. If I said Bill Gates gathered up two of every species and put them on a boat, you'd laugh because it is impossible, yet because it is in a 2,000 year old book written by uneducated men, it somehow makes it fact. Simply mindboggling.


      NO HUMAN could have survived if that much water flooded the Earth.

      Here are a handful of the problems:

      1) Direct evidence for a global flood is non-existent.

      2) There is no flood signature on the Earth itself.

      3) To flood the Earth, we'd need 5 times the volume of water that exists in the oceans.

      4) If we took ALL the water from the oceans, ALL the water from the ice, ALL the water contained in the atmosphere and ALL the water from the rocks (which has actually happened in the past), it STILL doesn't flood the Earth.

      5) If it rained for 40 days and nights non stop it STILL doesn't flood the Earth.

      6) It is impossible to have that much water come out of the Earth via springs, geysers and "cracks." If all of that water was contained inside the Earth (as many Christian "claim" is the case when they get desperate because the other options clearly don't work), then you wouldn't have been able to walk on the surface because the Earth's crust would have turned into a literal quicksand soup.

      7) If it was a miracle that allowed this much water to happen, then Noah and the animals would STILL have been dead because of the massive amount of water vapor in the atmosphere would have drowned them simply by breathing. That is of course if they were lucky enough to get in a few breaths before the atmospheric pressure crushed their lungs and killed them first before they drowned.

      8- If was caused by geysers alone, then you still wouldn't have been able to breathe due to the huge amounts of sulfuric gases.

      9) Since NONE of that can cause the flood, the only other option is a comet due to it carrying water with it. The problem here is that comet would have needed be 1,000 miles wide or approximately the size of Brazil. This would have forced the temperature of the atmosphere to skyrocket all the way up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter than the surface of the sun. There would have been no life left on Earth.

      10) As can be plainly seen, this story is fiction.

      Thus, it is IMPOSSIBLE. To realize it is impossible means you understand reality. To not accept this is to live in delusion. It is "scientific fact" versus "religious supersti-tion."

      April 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
      • Penn & Teller

        Sorry, this comment was meant for "jrh" below:

        April 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Phillip Pirrip

    Of course they don't believe in science. They have jesus,

    April 3, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  5. Anthony Ames

    It was conservatives who almost roasted Galileo for saying that Earth revolves around the Sun. That's all I need to know about them.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  6. jrh

    Science neither proves nor disproves the existence of a supreme being. Regardless of whether one does or does not believe, it is pointless and lame that people keep trying to argue one vs the other or even invoke one in the argument over the other. Science and religion do not affect the validity of each other, nor are they mutually exclusive.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Penn & Teller

      **** "Science neither proves nor disproves the existence of a supreme being."

      That's because science can't disprove a negative. Science can't prove nor disprove the existence of the Easter Bunny, the Boogeyman, Santa Claus, etc. But hey, I guess it is OK for adults to walk around at work believing in those items as well since by your "logic," science can't disprove their existence.

      *** "Regardless of whether one does or does not believe, it is pointless and lame that people keep trying to argue one vs the other or even invoke one in the argument over the other."

      Cool, so by your "logic," it is pointless for sane, rational adults to try and convince insane, delusional adults that Yoda, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc are not real. We should all just let them live in a world of delusion because after all that is SO healthy for our species.

      *** "Science and religion do not affect the validity of each other, nor are they mutually exclusive."

      LOL... the Bible and many adherents claim God flooded the entire world. Yet science knows this isn't true. The Bible talks about the "pillars" of the Earth, yet science knows that is not true. The Bible says whatever you pray for it WILL be done, yet science knows that isn't true.

      Good luck with your world of delusion.

      April 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
      • Penn & Teller

        I left an additional comment on this topic above that went to the incorrect location regarding an example of Noah versus science.

        April 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Keshia

      Feynman和Schwinger都早慧但是Schwinger教早受教育,18岁就在Colunbia拿到学士学位,据说他博士论文的内容此时就已经完成了,只是到了21岁“才”拿到Ph.D,所以他早熟,使得他严谨的风格得到很大的强化,他年轻时的文章都很老成。Feynman一辈子都是顽童性格,18岁时上大学,蔑视权威,后来搞出Path Integral,搞出Feynman diagram ,正是从这个意义上,他风头压过了Schwinger,加上酷爱作秀(Gell man就对此很不满),名声自然远扬科学界外。在1980年美国Fermi实验室举行的关于粒子物理的会议上,Schwinger作了Renormalization and Quantum Electrodymonic的演讲,在这篇优美动人且充分展现Schwinger高超英语应用能力的文章中,他说了一句动人心弦的话:like the iioscln chip of more recent years, the Feynman diagram was bringing computation to the masses

      April 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  7. Tea

    Conservatives think this way because............
    They only have faith in stripping money out of the funding for science and research. They can care less about the results.
    THIS IS WHY CANCER AND AIDS and so on will never be cured.
    Just a thought

    April 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  8. Nick from Philly

    Conservatives put little trust in science?

    Does this mean that they also distrust Medical Science? Oh wait. To them, medicine is NOT science. Oh, my bad...

    April 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  9. Adam

    CNN should learn how to spell percent. Look in the last line, "perecent" DERP

    April 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  10. Raammson

    Its ok Conservatives I don't think Science likes you that much either.

    April 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  11. Vance

    The Earth is a closed ecosystem of & Billion People. A race of beings whom have learned to utilize fossil fuels that the Earth had sequestered. We pump that stuff back into the atmosphere on a daily basis, faster than is can be absorbed. Do logical educated minds really believe we have no or little impact on the environment? Seriously?

    April 9, 2012 at 3:09 am |
  12. .

    Conservatives place a great deal of trust in science, but we balance it with common sense.

    Liberalism? It's a mental disorder.

    And that's pure science.

    April 9, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Sane

      By common sense you mean like a supernatural being came and created Earth in 6 days. Or that he/she/it impregnated a human to bear its child. Common sense? You gotta be kidding me.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
      • John Henson

        And, on the seventh day, God rested, saw the world He had created, and said, 'Oh Crap! What have I done?'

        April 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  13. John Henson

    The labels 'conservative,' 'moderate' (or 'middle-of-the-road' to some pollsters) and 'liberal' are self-descriptions, my initial response was to ask, are 'conservatives' the same cohort as in 1978? I doubt it. The country has moved very far to the right compared with 1978. What was 'moderate' then is left-wing now.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  14. Locker

    Conservatives who don't reject evolution, global warming, environmental studies, etc are in the minority. Publicly stating these opinions will quickly bring calls of RINO (Rupublican In Name Only) from your "own people". If you feel strongly then perhaps you should work to educate and bring logic and reason back to the majority of your party rather than blaming everything on the media and the great liberal conspiracy to make Republicans look exactly as they want to look.

    April 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
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