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Health

Who "hearts" science among liberals

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanApril 20, 2011 11:34 PM

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First, if it is clear that you haven't read the post itself and leave a comment I won't just not publish it, but I'll ban you. Second, if you complain about this in the comments, I'll ban you too. Now that you feel appropriately welcome, I want to explore some of the issues beneath Chris Mooney's post, Vaccine Denial and the Left:

So I want to further explain my assertion that vaccine denial “largely occupies” the political left. It arises, basically, from my long familiarity with this issue, having read numerous books about it, etc. First, it is certainly true that environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities have been the loudest proponents of anti-vaccine views. To me, that is evidence, although not necessarily definitive. So is the fact that we see dangerously large clusters of the unvaccinated in places like Ashland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, which are very leftwing cities. What’s tricky is, there’s not a standard left-right political ideology underlying this. Rather, it seems more associated with a Whole Foods and au natural lifestyle that, while certainly more prominent on the bicoastal left, isn’t the same as being outraged by inequality or abuses of the free market.

This is a tricky issue. There is a stereotype that liberals who reject religion tend to gravitate toward New Age/environmentalist spirituality. "The mind abhors a vacuum" model. I used to accept this, but if you poke around the General Social Survey the reality is more complicated. For example, you can look up attitudes toward genetically modified food and astrology. The results don't fall neatly into a Left-Right dichotomy. Part of the issue is that there has been aggregation of distinct groups into on catchall category. Consider me. I identify as a conservative, which would indicate a far higher odds of me being a Creationist, but I'm clearly not. There aren't any questions about vaccination in the General Social Survey, but there are several about trust and faith in science, or lack thereof. First I pruned all of the questions which were before 1998. So the results below are for the 2000s by and large. After that I had a set of variables to play with, to serve as replicates in terms of observing trends. Below are three tables with my results. Table #1 is just a set of results which shows how political ideology, party identification, and educational attainment, correlate with attitudes toward science. So in that table the columns add up to 100%. So below 4% of liberals strongly agree while the assertion that "we trust too much in science," and 21% strongly disagree. The second table is limited to self-identified liberals. I wanted to query how attitudes toward science vary by demographic among liberals. In this case the rows add up to 100% on the margin (rotated from the first table). So in terms of those who strongly agree that we trust too much in science, 29% are male and 71% female, among self-identified liberals. Remember that in some classes there won't be a 50/50 breakdown, so look for the variation in relative trends. Finally, for the third table I have a regression. I now divided the sample into liberal and conservative groups, and ran a set of variables to predict opinions on the questions which I've covered so far. The first row has the R-squared, the magnitude of which illustrates how much the listed variables predict variation on the question. Subsequent rows have beta values for the variables, which indicate the direction and magnitude of the effect from that given variable. The questions are all easily numerical, or recoded as numerical (e.g., atheist, agnostic...to total belief in God is 1, 2...6). To get an intuition as to what's going on, just look at each variable and its value. Those which are bold are statistically significant at p = 0.05. For example, among liberals confidence in belief in god seems to decrease trust in science. Socioeconomic status seems to increase it. Please note that I've omitted some categories for variables where the sample size is too small, so some rows/columns may be less than 100% (e.g., Jews in "religion"). Additionally I've removed some response classes where N < 25, as the noise can confuse the trend line.


TRUSTCIWe trust too much in science

POLVIEWSLibModCons

Strongly agree4810

Agree162328

Neither223025

Disagree372829

Strongly disagree21118

PARTYIDDemIndRep

Strongly agree789

Agree222326

Neither243127

Disagree322430

Strongly disagree14149

DEGREENon-collegeCollege

Strongly agree93

Agree2616

Neither2723

Disagree2934

Strongly disagree824

NEXTGENScience & tech. give more opportunities to next generation

POLVIEWSLibModCons

Strongly agree423540

Agree485753

Disagree886

Strongly disagree211

PARTYIDDemIndRep

Strongly agree383441

Agree545652

Disagree7106

Strongly disagree111

DEGREENon-collegeCollege

Strongly agree3645

Agree5550

Disagree85

Strongly disagree10

SCIFAITHBelieve too much in science, not enough in faith

POLVIEWSLibModCons

Strongly agree10915

Agree324037

Neither232825

Disagree241820

Strongly disagree1153

PARTYIDDemIndRep

Strongly agree111012

Agree383837

Neither232927

Disagree211820

Strongly disagree754

DEGREENon-collegeCollege

Strongly agree135

Agree4127

Neither2527

Disagree1729

Strongly disagree411

TOOFASTScience makes our way of life change too fast

POLVIEWSLibModCons

Strongly agree1089

Agree314238

Disagree484345

Strongly disagree1278

PARTYIDDemIndRep

Strongly agree10107

Agree384236

Disagree434148

Strongly disagree978

DEGREENon-collegeCollege

Strongly agree115

Agree4031

Disagree4350

Strongly disagree614

SCISPECScience is too concerned with theory and speculation

POLVIEWSLibModCons

Strongly agree476

Agree233336

Disagree505352

Strongly disagree2376

PARTYIDDemIndRep

Strongly agree675

Agree293433

Disagree505253

Strongly disagree1577

DEGREENon-collegeCollege

Strongly agree73

Agree3523

Disagree5154

Strongly disagree720


Opinions of science of self-identified liberals. Rows = 100% or less

We trust too much in science

MaleFemale

Strongly agree2971

Agree4258

Neither4357

Disagree4654

Strongly disagree4951

WhiteBlack

Strongly agree4047

Agree5928

Neither7713

Disagree8011

Strongly disagree861

Non-collegeCollege

Strongly agree8614

Agree8119

Neither7228

Disagree6436

Strongly disagree4060

ProtestantCatholicNone

Strongly agree65216

Agree58259

Neither363222

Disagree382723

Strongly disagree301839

Science & tech. Give more opportunities to next generation

MaleFemale

Strongly agree4159

Agree4357

Disagree5545

WhiteBlack

Strongly agree7313

Agree7218

Disagree6920

Non-collegeCollege

Strongly agree5941

Agree6634

Disagree6733

ProtestantCatholicNone

Strongly agree332429

Agree402525

Disagree541627

Believe too much in science, not enough in faith

MaleFemale

Strongly agree3367

Agree4060

Neither3961

Disagree3961

Strongly disagree5347

WhiteBlack

Strongly agree5237

Agree6026

Neither7416

Disagree847

Strongly disagree912

Non-collegeCollege

Strongly agree8416

Agree8119

Neither7030

Disagree5446

Strongly disagree3961

ProtestantCatholicNone

Strongly agree522114

Agree473110

Neither343029

Disagree372128

Strongly disagree15660


Regression results

TRUSTSCINEXTGENSCIFAITHTOOFASTSCISPEC

Liberals

R-squared0.2070.0260.1780.0880.149

Age0.014-0.0040.04-0.05-0.037

Socioeconomic index0.2790.0480.040.1590.13

Educational attainment-0.047-0.2120.1070.062-0.019

Vocab score0.1550.0860.1120.120.306

Confidence in belief in God-0.2750.069-0.314-0.083-0.135

Conservatives

R-squared0.0960.020.130.060.087

Age-0.0520.029-0.071-0.11-0.06

Socioeconomic index-0.017-0.0340.0320.0070.072

Educational attainment0.05-0.0360.1410.115-0.031

Vocab score-0.057-0.0260.1090.1450.245

Confidence in belief in God-0.3270.044-0.266-0.091-0.18


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