There’s a widespread misconception about science denial – that on issues like the safety vaccines and genetically modified foods (GMOs), denial is found predominantly on the political left, mirroring the denial of evolution and climate science on the political right. This assumption has even been presented on The Daily Show, but it’s supported by precious little evidence. In fact, as Chris Mooney documented in great detail in 2014:
A new YouGov poll provided some data on this[The data] do not support the idea that vaccine denial is a special left-wing cause. As for GMOs, while resistance may be strongest on the far left, worries on this issue are quite prominent across the spectrum as well. In neither case are these beliefs a mirror image, on the left, of climate change or evolution denial [on the political right].
The YouGov poll also asked respondents “Generally speaking, how much trust do you have that what scientists say is accurate and reliable?”. There was little difference between various ethnicities, ages, geographical regions, or genders. However, Democrats were far more likely to trust scientists than Republicans, with Independents falling in the middle, but closer to Republicans.
These results are consistent with a 2012 paper by Gordon Gauchat, which found:
public trust in science has not declined since the 1970s except among conservatives and those who frequently attend church.
|Public trust in science broken down by ideology. Illustration: Gauchat (2012), American Sociological Review.|
A significant part of the Republican war on science is climate science denial;
Indeed, authoritarians favor Donald Trump, whose supporters have considerable overlap with climate science denial. Robert Brulle’s research into the ‘dark money’ funding climate denial also helps explain the problem. The Republican Party has become increasingly dependent upon corporate funding and support, which is heavily skewed in the direction of climate denial. The near-total abandonment of party leadershipon the climate issue has sent a signal to Republican voters – climate change isn’t a concern, and anyone saying otherwise is part of the hoax.But it there be some hope.
climate denial is largely limited to a small and dwindling group of old, white, male conservatives; hence, it’s not a tenable long-term position for the Republican Party. Like opposition to gay marriage, science denial is a position that will increasingly alienate young voters in particular, who will bear the brunt of the consequences of climate inaction.