Science Knowledge Has Almost No Effect On Republican Beliefs, According To Survey


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Good luck, America. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Politicians don’t normally have a handle on the latest science at the best of times, whether they are on the left or the right of the spectrum. However, it’s difficult to argue against the notion that the Republican Party these days are the de facto political organization for anti-scientific rhetoric.

The President of the United States is skeptical of vaccine safety. He isn’t sure about climate change being real either, and neither is most of his cabinet – including the person responsible for keeping an eye on it. Heck, Trump’s not even sure what wind actually is, or what its intentions are.


So what of Republican voters? Is the average GOP voter a very different creature? Do Democrats have a better grasp on science than the Republican part of American society? Well, according to a recent set of surveys from Pew Research, political belief strongly influences scientific acceptance for both Democrats and Republicans – but in two very different ways.

Conducted during the summer of last year, Pew has highlighted it again this week. Based on a representative sample of 1,534 American adults, it queried people on their scientific viewpoints – in particular, it wanted to know what percentage of people accepted the science of climate change in relation to rising sea levels, environmental destruction, and extreme weather events.

A curious trend emerged. Among Democrats, those with a higher scientific literacy agreed with the general scientific consensus a lot more than those with a limited scientific comprehension. For example, 75 percent of those with “high” literacy agreed that climate change causes rising sea levels, 73 percent agreed that wildlife is going to suffer, and 74 percent agreed that storms will get more severe.


This pattern was not seen at all in Republican voters. In fact, there was no correlation between scientific consensus acceptance and scientific literacy – partisanship seemed to make scientific literacy irrelevant. Those with almost no background in science responded in much the same way to questions as those with a high degree of scientific comprehension.


For example, only 27 percent of GOPers with a “high” scientific literacy agreed that the phenomenon caused rising sea levels, and only 19 percent agreed that storms are more severe because of it.

So, if you’re a Democrat, you are much more likely to accept scientific facts the more educated you are on the subject. If you’re a Republican, the chances are you won’t give a damn about what any scientist says – with some exceptions.

Ultimately, this means that you can throw all the facts you want at certain people, and you can be essentially certain that none of them will change their minds. If that doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you, then we don’t know what will.


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