Gordon Gauchat published a paper in American Sociological Review in 2012 (paywalled), reporting that political conservatives in the United States lost confidence in the scientific community from the 1970s to 2010, while political liberals and moderates did not. As a result, a political divide opened up so that by 2010 conservatives had the lowest level of confidence in science.
I’ve written a short working paper that extends the trends through the 2016 General Social Survey. I find that political conservatives, Republicans, and Americans who attend religious services regularly, all demonstrate falling levels of confidence in the scientific community. Further, for the most recent period (2012-2016) educational attainment, for conservatives, is not associated with increased levels of confidence in science, except at the graduate degree level (and even there confidence is lower among conservatives). It’s as if conservative views on science are impervious to education.
I have only a few sentences about politics in the paper, but the gist of it is that this divide is bad, it undermines democracy, and plays into Trump’s authoritarian hands.
Here’s the figure showing the Republicans falling off the trust cliff: the trend in expressing “a great deal of confidence” in the scientific community, with controls, by party identification:
And here’s the figure from the recent period, showing that conservatives have lower levels of confidence regardless of education level — and education has no relationship to confidence in science for them, up to the level of graduate degree at least.
I welcome your feedback.