Republicans trust science – except when it comes to health insurance and gay adoption

Does partisanship shape attitudes toward science and public policy? The case for ideology and religion

From The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

This study finds that while Democrats are generally more “pro-science” than other political groups, Republicans are also inclined to defer to science across a range of policy issues. In fact, there are only four issues where Republicans exhibit less trust than independents: global warming, evolution, gay adoption, and mandatory health insurance. Researchers examined a 2013 survey of 2,000 registered voters in the U.S.

“Republicans are not especially different from independents (and other non-Democrats) in their willingness to defer to science,” wrote the study’s authors. “Indeed, controlling for ideology and demographic factors, Republican identification is associated with an increase in the deference to science for fourteen of sixteen issues: all but mandatory health insurance and gay adoption. And even here the effect is not statistically significant.”


Despite the apparent partisan divide over issues such as global warming and hydraulic fracturing, little is known about what shapes citizens’ willingness to accept scientific recommendations on political issues. We examine the extent to which Democrats, Republicans, and independents are likely to defer to scientific expertise in matters of policy. Our study draws on an October 2013 U.S. national survey of 2,000 respondents. We find that partisan differences exist: our data show that most Americans see science as relevant to policy, but that their willingness to defer to science in policy matters varies considerably across issues. While party, ideology, and religious beliefs clearly influence attitudes toward science, Republicans are not notably skeptical about accepting scientific recommendations. Rather, it seems that Democrats are particularly receptive to the advice and counsel of scientists, when compared to both independents and Republicans.

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Article details

Section I: Political Values and Public Beliefs About Science: Joshua M. Blank and Daron Shaw
Does Partisanship Shape Attitudes toward Science and Public Policy? The Case for Ideology and Religion The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science March 2015 658: 18-35, doi:10.1177/0002716214554756



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