By Tal Kopan, Politico
A finding in a study on the relationship between science literacy and political ideology surprised the Yale professor behind it: Tea party members know more science than non-tea partiers.
Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of a set of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.
However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.
Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him.
“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,” Kahan wrote.
“But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party,” he continued. “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.”
While Kahan cautioned against thinking the results can be used to explain deep ideological fights over climate change and other politically relevant science, and he said the results wouldn’t change his negative views of the tea party, he did say he will no longer make assumptions about the level of knowledge on his opponents’ side.
See too: Yale Professor's Surprising Discovery: Tea Party Supporters More Scientifically Literate