In the United States, it's almost taken as fact that the conservative right is anti-science and the liberal left is science's champion. The political right is frequently mocked for rejecting the scientific consensus on everything from evolution to abortion to climate change, while the political left largely gets a pass. But how much truth is there to this narrative?
In a study published last week in Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers from the University of Illinois–Chicago decided to find out if political ideology really made conservatives more skeptical of science in general, or just skeptical of certain science issues in particular. The researchers had 1,347 participants read about a study that either aligned with or challenged their views on one of several charged issues—climate change, gun control, health-care reform, immigration, nuclear power, and same-sex marriage—in addition to a non-controversial control—skin rash treatments. The authors asked the participants to interpret the results of the study, after which they were presented with the correct conclusions. Once the participants knew what the study's actual conclusions were, they had to rate how knowledgable and trustworthy they found the study and its authors, and how much they agreed or disagreed with its conclusions.
The researchers found that liberals were just as likely as conservatives to interpret study results in a way that aligned with their preconceived beliefs, and both were equally likely to deny the credibility of results that conflicted with their views.
The country may seem more divided than ever, but at least we all still have something in common.