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« Let it be? Measuring partisan reactions to existing mandatory vaccination laws | Main | What do polluted & nonpolluted science communication environments *look* like? & how about childhood vaccines?.... »
Thursday
Feb052015

What does Christie know that the rest of us don't? My guess is nothing (or even less that that actually)

Doing his part to increase the quality of the public debate over the public's non-debate over vaccine safety, NJ Gov'r  Chris Christie delivered a gift to empirically unencumbered pundits by indicating his support (momentarily, at least) for "parental choice" on childhood immunizations.  

News stories the next day were filled with authoritative-sounding insight on what Christie's stance tells us about partisan divisions on universal vaccination.  Most explained  that Christie was trying to "appease" the Republican Party's Tea Party wing.

But there is another possibility: Christie was just making a fool of himself.

Why do I say that?

Well, to start, there is tremendous public support for universal vaccination across all demographic, cultural, religious and other lines in the U.S.

Yes, there are some people who are "anti-vax."  They are outliers in all of the groups that play a recognizable role in contested political life in the U.S.

The media is filled with stories about "growing parental" resentment and "plummeting vaccination" rates.  But those stories are based on the failure of fact checkers to do what they are paid to do.

True, the blogosphere is filled with (contradictory and even comically self-contradictory accounts) of how being "anti-vax" proves this or that cultural or poltical group is "anti-science." The only "polls" those are based on are the ones that fact-free commentators perform on themselves, or possibly the people they meet when they go shopping at whole foods.

But if Christie said he thinks that there should "parental choice," surely that must mean that in fact some significant fraction of the Republican party is anti-vax, right?!  Likely it's those stupid, evil, anti-science Tea Party members!  He must be trying to curry favor with them!

Maybe.  

Or maybe he is just a bonehead.

To test these competing hypotheses, I decided to ... look at some actual evidence!

Based on data from the CCP Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication Report,
the figure illustrates the relationship between partisanship (measured with a scale that combines measures of liberal-conservative ideology and political-party identification) and the perceived benefits and risks of vaccines taking survey respondents' Tea Party membership into account.

Because only around 1% of the relatively liberal, Democratic respondents identified as "Tea Party members," I compared TP and non-TP members only among the relatively conservative, Republican members of the sample, of whom 30% identified as belonging to the TP (where does one sign up, btw? where are the meetings held? seriously!).

Well ... Eighty-four percent of the relative liberal, Democratic respondents and 78% of the conservative, Republican ones agreed that vaccine benefits outweigh their risks.  Boy, that's going to be a real wedge issue in the 2016 election, don't you think?

But wait-- the TP members!  A paltry 74% of them think vaccine benefits outweigh the risks! 

Look, in case you are tempted to try to squeeze a "culture conflict" out of the differences in how overwhelmingly pro-vaccine these groups of citizens are, here's graphic that shows the partisan breakdown on climate change, taking TP membership into account, in this same sample.

See the difference?

No? Well, then check out difference between what a polluted science communication environment and an unpolluted one looks like.

And if that doesn't work, then check out what happened when Glen Beck peed himself with excitement over the size of the difference in the science literacy scores of TP members (the same ones featured here) & the rest of the population.

So either 

(1) the brilliant and brilliantly advised Christie made a super shrewd move in appealing to those particular TP members who are out of step with 3/4 of their fellow TP members, and with the same proportion of non-TP conserv/repubs, thereby yanking the rug out from steam-rolling front-runner Jeb Bush, who is obviously being advised by rank amatures on this issue;

or

(2) Christie is a bonehead.

Call me a "contrarian" (someone did the other day for suggesting that it is actually useful to look at data when trying to interpret public opinion on science issues), but I pick bonehead.


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Reader Comments (34)

I thought that this subject wasn't even worth discussing?

It ain't just Christie.

We have Ron Paul
We have Ted Cruz
We have Ben Carson
We have Donald Trump (who considered a run for the Republican nomination)
We have Louie Gohmert
We have Alan Keyes
We have Glenn Beck (prominent "conservative" - at one time considered among the country's most influential)
We have Rick Santorum
We have Michelle Bachmann

Are there a similar number of prominent Demz who express similar opinions about vaccinations?

We have had many attacks from prominent Republicans against the CDC
We have had prominent Republican politicians calling for significant funding cuts to the CDC.

In your chart, you didn't refer to trends over time.

There are signs that the vaccination issue could morph into the same kind of Republican litmus test—a prospect that many in the party quickly tried to tamp down with strong statements in support of immunization. Still, six years ago, an equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans backed requiring vaccines for children. When asked again last week, Democratic support held at 71 percent, while Republican and independents fell to 65 percent.

You'll like this one:

American trust in government among the entire population is at a record low, but it's particularly down among Republicans. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly 3 in 10 Democrats said they could trust the government, compared to just 10 percent of Republicans.

Check out the Tea Party on this graph:

http://www.people-press.org/files/2013/10/10-18-2013-5.png


You'll like this one too: an article that discusses the relationship between views on vaccines and "trust in government."

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-02-04/why-do-republicans-have-such-a-hard-time-with-vaccines-

Are you really unequivocal that there is no relationship between the trends in "trust in government" and trends in "trust in science?"

http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy/606-75.gif

Obviously, they aren't the same, and teasing out the relationship is complicated - but given that we rely on the work of scientists who work for governmental institutions, I'm not sure that we can say that there is no relationship:

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

What is the question? The only issue I'm addressing is the one I'm addressing. I swear: no secret messages etc here.

I'll go with the data. Not the empirically challenged talking heads. Not with the conflict entrepreneurs.

There is not political conflict over vaccines in the U.S. But yes, there are some people who mistakenly think there is, and others, on left & right, who are trying hard to create the same. Through their combined efforts, they might very well pull vaccines into the cultural status conflict in which climate change, HPV vaccine, fracking, nuclear power, guns etc. all reside

February 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"Vaccine benefits outweigh the risks" is not the same staement as "vaccines should be mandatory".

Eliding the two is quite unworthy of you, Dan. Not only is it imprecise; it is imprecise in a biased way. The difference between what is a good idea and what should be mandatory is central to the political rhetoric of part of the Right (the part called "libertarian" when the word is used very loosely) and much less so elsewhere. So ignoring this difference is going to make you especially prone to miss the possible appeal Christie's position could have among Republican primary voters.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAn Igyt

Dan -

==> "Through their combined efforts, they might very well pull vaccines into the cultural status conflict in which climate change, HPV vaccine, fracking, nuclear power, guns etc. all re

That is, basically, my point!!!!

But I am making another point as well: Measuring "trust in science" is extremely problematic I don't even know what it means, exactly, and trying to find metrics for assessment is fraught with difficulty - as, I think, your data point out.

But with that as a caveat, I think that it is worthwhile considering whether increased distrust in government among conz (or more accurately a sub-set of conz) in comparison to demz and indiez is a signal of something, and a signal of something not entirely unrelated to "trust in science," whatever that means.

In the real world, the politically-driven hatred that is channeled towards the CDC in the Ebola scare, and towards science evidence-based decision making by scientists at scientific institutions, is meaningful, and I think important. Even though we find that mostly among sub-groups, it has an impact across society more widely.

And no, that doesn't mean that I think that Republicans are bad or that they are anti-science.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@AnIgyt:

Very reasonable point.

It turns out, thought, that if one looks at vaccine attitudes, all the items measure the same thing -- a latent attitude, pro- or con. You can pick any one & see the same patterns. Take a look at Report, Parts I & III.C for extended discussion of this.

This is consistent with affect heuristic" dynamic in risk perception.

And of course the whole point of cultural cognition is that people's perceptions of risk track their cultural appraisals of behavor & regulation of the same.

It's not surprising that Rand Paul, e.g., refers to "many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines."

My basic point, of course, is that *members of the general public* who have diverse cultural outlooks all have a positive view of vaccines. At this point, at least, they don't see universal vaccination as thretening their values, and hence don't see them as threatening their health.

Any individual -- including politician -- who is "anti-vax" will integrate his or her view of why vaccines are dangerous and universal vaccination unnecessary and bad policy into his or her world view. But it is a logical error to infer from that that view of vaccines is in fact common to all people who share that worldview!

Glad you focused my attention on this & I regret now not getting this point into the post.

I will follow up presently w/ vaccine "policy" items that reflect these same patterns.

February 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

I wonder to what extent it is Christie who is being boneheaded here, and to what extent it's the liberal media - trying to make a party division on the issue, where none exists?

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

@ Joshua

You can add one more to your list, ex-Congressman (R) Dan Burton:

Former Congressman: Vaccines linked to autism

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

==> "I wonder to what extent it is Christie who is being boneheaded here, and to what extent it's the liberal media - trying to make a party division on the issue, where none exists?"

hmmm.

I think that it is not just Christie, but a number of prominent Republicans who are being boneheaded w/r/t vaccines just as they were w/r/t the Ebola scare.

I think that the media is capitalizing on that boneheadedness.

I think that the media are probably painting a picture of greater party distinctions than actually exist - which probably increases the probability of increased party distinctions (and greater pollution of the science communication environment) in the future.

Bu that doesn't mean that there are no party distinctions to be made. It would be a mistake to single out "the media" for responsibility here and turn a blind eye to the fairly long list of prominent Republicans who are exploiting fear and anti-science sentiment, and attacking scientific evidence-based decision making, for political gain.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

And one of the most outspoken anti-vaccination doctors has gone silent, and it was later discovered he is under investigation:

Anti-vaccine doctor Jack Wolfson goes silent

Anti-vaccine doctor under investigation

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@Dan

It is so nice to have a host who takes criticism well! And so rare!

I stand by for further information.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAn Igyt

• Dan Kahan said:

Most explained that Christie was trying to "appease" the Republican Party's Tea Party wing.

I disagree.

What I believe Christie is attempting to do is to polish his "libertarian" and "anti-government" credentials, that he is playing to those people with "libertarian" and "anti-government" sentiments. And I'm not sure how closely those people mirror the ideology of the populist, Tea Party faithful. Most of the Tea Party faithful seem to be pretty enamored of their big-government entitlements, like medicare and social security, even though it's obvious there's some colossal cognitive dissonance going on there.

Perhaps those "libertarian" and "anti-government" sentiments are a better reflection of the sentiments and interests of those who hail from the elite billionaire class, folks like the Koch brothers who are both culturally and economically conservative, or folks like the late Richard Mellon Scaife and Paul Singer, who are culturally liberal but economically conservative.

• Dan Kahan said:

Well, to start, there is tremendous public support for universal vaccination across all demographic, cultural, religious and other lines in the U.S.

Yes, there are some people who are "anti-vax." They are outliers in all of the groups that play a recognizable role in contested political life in the U.S.

But these "outliers" can wield disproportionate political influence.

I think what you're leaving out of your calculus is what in political jargon is called "salience," which none of the polls which you cite measure.

Politicians tend to cater to one-issue voters, and especially on issues which have little or no salience with the majority of the public. This is one of the things which gives lobbies, even though small in number, their disproportionate political clout, such as the National Rifle Association. Here's how John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt describe how the phenomenon works to the benefit of what they call "the Israel lobby":

The US form of government offers activists many ways of influencing the policy process. Interest groups can lobby elected representatives and members of the executive branch, make campaign contributions, vote in elections, try to mould public opinion etc. They enjoy a disproportionate amount of influence when they are committed to an issue to which the bulk of the population is indifferent. Policymakers will tend to accommodate those who care about the issue, even if their numbers are small, confident that the rest of the population will not penalise them for doing so.

I think it's yet to be seen how salient the vaccination issue is with the bulk of the population, and to what extent the Christies of the world will be penalized for their pandering to the "libertarian" and "anti-government" crowd. Time will tell.

• Joshua said:

There are signs that the vaccination issue could morph into the same kind of Republican litmus test...

Isn't that the goal? Isn't that what political entrepreneurs do, which is to try to invoke these beliefs, evoke them, summon them, call them into being, and then have these beliefs define the group, act as ideological markers which set it apart from other groups?

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Consider two possible statements from Christie or any other GOP candidate. "I don't think the government should be able to force your children to fight lions in the gladiatorial arena." "I don't think the government should force your children to be vaccinated."

There are three things going for the second that aren't going for the first. 1) Some cities and school boards are openly discussing the idea of requiring vaccination to attend elementary schools, a lot of colleges already have requirements. 2) There is a small chance of getting Democrats or GOP rivals to come out in support of mandatory vaccination. 3) There is an even larger chance of making potential voters think the Democrats support mandatory vaccination.

And, of course, as others have pointed out, ice cream is good, but people don't want Uncle Sam forcing them to eat ice cream.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

@ Dan Kahan

The charge has also been leveled that the Tea Party is an astroturf organziation, financed by the elite billionaire class. And if one takes a look at some of the research which has been done in this regard, the money trail does seem to lead back to the billionaires.

Why would billionaires be interested in polluting the science communication environment and promoting irrationality in general? Here is the historian Carroll Quigley's theory from The Evolution of Civilizations:

The vested interests encourage the growth of imperialist wars and irrationality because both serve to divert the discontent of the masses away from their vested interests. Accordingly, some of the defenders of vested interests divert a certain part of their surplus to create instruments of class oppression, instruments of imperialist wars, and instruments of irrationality.... These three new vested interests in combination with the older vested institution of expansion are in a position to prevent all reform. The last of these three, the old institution of expansion, now begins to lose its privileges and advantages to the three institutions it has financed. Of these three, the institution of class oppression controls much of the political power of the society; the institution of imperialist wars controls much of the military power of tyhe society; and the institution of irrationality controls much of the intellectual life of the society. These three become dominant, and the group that formerly controlled the institution of expansion falls back into a secondary role, its surpluses largely absorbed by its own creations.... [T]he Nazi party, which had been financed by some of the German monopoly capitalists as an instrument of class oppression, of imperialist wars, and of irrationality, took on purposes of its own and began to dominate the monopoly capitalists for its own ends.

Hannah Arendt came to very similar conclusions in The Origins of Totalitarianism:

Only when the nationstate proved unfit to the framework for the further growth of capitalist economy did the latent fight between state and society become openly a struggle for power. During the imperialist period neither the state nor the bourgeoisie won a decisive victory. National institutions resisted throughout the brutality and megalomania of imperialist institutions, and bourgeois attempts to use the state and its instruments of violence for its own economic purposes were always only half successful. This changed when the German bourgeoisie staked everything on the Hitler movement and aspired to rule with the help of the mob, but then it turned out to be too late. The bourgeoisie succeeded in destroying the nation-state but won a Pyrrhic victory; the mob proved quite capable of taking care of politics by itself and liquidated the bourgeoisie along with all other classes and institutions.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@ Ryan said:

Consider two possible statements from Christie or any other GOP candidate. "I don't think the government should be able to force your children to fight lions in the gladiatorial arena." "I don't think the government should force your children to be vaccinated."....

...ice cream is good, but people don't want Uncle Sam forcing them to eat ice cream.

The only difference that really counts from a legal, logical, philosophical and moral perspective between "forcing your children to fight lions in the gladitorial arena" and "forcing them to eat ice cream," and "forcing your children to be vaccinated," is what is known as "state interest" or "compelling state interest."

State Interest

A broad term for any matter of public concern that is addressed by a government in law or policy.

State legislatures pass laws to address matters of public interest and concern. A law that sets speed limits on public highways expresses an interest in protecting public safety. A statute that requires high school students to pass competency examinations before being allowed to graduate advances the state's interest in having an educated citizenry.

Although the state may have a legitimate interest in public safety, public health, or an array of other issues, a law that advances a state interest may also intrude on important constitutional rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has devised standards of review that govern how a state interest will be constitutionally evaluated.

When a law affects a constitutionally protected interest, the law must meet the Rational Basis Test. This test requires that the law be rationally related to a legitimate state interest. For example, a state law that prohibits a person from selling insurance without a license deprives people of their right to make contracts freely. Yet the law will be upheld because it is a rational means of advancing the state interest in protecting persons from fraudulent or unscrupulous insurance agents. Most laws that are challenged on this basis are upheld, as there is usually some type of reasonable relation between the state interest and the way the law seeks to advance that interest.

When a law or policy affects a fundamental constitutional right, such as the right to vote or the right to privacy, the Strict Scrutiny test will be applied. This test requires the state to advance a compelling state interest to justify the law or policy. Strict scrutiny places a heavy burden on the state. For example, in roe v. wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973), the state interest in protecting unborn children was not compelling enough to overcome a woman's right to privacy. When the state interest is not sufficiently compelling, the law is struck down as unconstitutional.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Seriously, Ryan?

You don't see, as per Glenn's comment, perhaps a slight difference in the public health implications between state mandated lion fighting and state mandated vaccinations?

Perhaps we could wait to discuss your reductio ad absurdum hypothetical until the state starts advocating lion-fighting? 'Till then, it seems like a bit of a reductionist, not to mention absurd, discussion to take seriously?

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Glenn--

they are genuine people, genuinely there, at least at this point. But there's no place to sign up; they don't have meetings. I don't know what it means to be "in the Tea Party," but it means something well worth understanding (I'm sure it's not what people tend to say; identifying as one certainly doesn't validly indicate holding "liberterian" views, e.g.)

What you are talking about does exist too, for sure.

February 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@PaulMathews--

Yes, I think Christie was "punked." Those asking the question are trying to see if they can get candidates to stumble & Christie clearly did -- he's not particularly agile. That's one conception of his being a "bonehead" here.

I think the tide has turned. The politicians themselves see the attempt to turn this into "an issue" as wrong.

Of course, I am about as good at predicting things like that as I am at predicting stock market trends. But genuinely good things -- like Bush's position & the generalized snarling resenment of Republican party generally over this disgusting bit of theater -- should be recognized for what they are.

February 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

=>> "Yes, I think Christie was "punked.""

Not to say that the media isn't playing a role in polluting the issue, but it's the media's fault that Christie tries to make vaccinations a question of government tyranny? What about when Cruz, Carson, Trump, Gohmert, Keyes, Beck, Santorum, and Bachmann do it? Were they "punked" also?

What about when prominant mainstream Republucans go from turning the individual mandate from personal responsibility into government tyranny? Is that the media's fault also?

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Christie doesn't exploit fear and distrust of scientific evidence-based public health policy because he's a Republican. It isn't because he is anti-science.

He does it because he's a politician who thinks that he can exploit fear and distrust of scientific evidence-based public health policy for political advantage, by leveraging it against distrust of government.

It just so happens, that at least on some issues, Republican politicians are more likely to think that such exploitation is politically expedient. That s to be expected at least to some degree since distrust of government is an attribute where there is a partisan signal in the data.

My guess is that we could see something of a parallel in how some Demz sought to exploit distrust in government when Bush was president, by exploiting fear and distrust of scientific evidence-based public health policy to address H5N1.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua said:

....distrust of government is an attribute where there is a partisan signal in the data.

I believe that, in the United States in 2015, that to be nominally true. The evidence you cite pretty clearly demonstrates the validity of your assertion.

However, it's never been clear to me what "distrust in government" and "libertarianism" mean. For if we look at what "libertarianism" means to the Gods of Chicago, it invariably means anarchy for the Koch brothers and Paul Singers of the world, and the jack boot of the state against the necks of people like me. Instead of the Gods of Chicago, I think a better name for the Chicago Boys would be the Gods of Hypocrisy. Here's how Reinhold Niebuhr put it in Moral Man & Immoral Society:

[L]aissez faire economic theory is maintained in an industrial era through the ignorant belief that the general welfare is best served by placing the least possible political restraints upon economic activity.... Its survival is due to the ignorance of those who suffer injustice from the application of this theory to modern industrial life but fail to attribute their difficulties to the social anarchy and political irresponsibility which the theory sanctions....

When economic power desires to be left alone it uses the philosophy of laissez faire to discourage political restraint upon economic freedom. When it wants to make use of the police power of the state to subdue rebellions and discontent in the ranks of the helots, it justifies the use of political coercion and the resulting suppression of liberties by insisting that peace is more precious than freedom....

The only halfway honest neo-liberal I've ever run across is Bruno Amable. Here's how he describes the neo-liberal doctrine:

If one is to believe the definition given in Wikipedia, used here to exemplify the popular (mis)understanding of the term, neo-liberalism is ‘a label for economic liberalism or [...] “laissez-faire”

[....]

It should be clear from what was explained above that the neo-liberal ideology does not call for a weak non-interventionist state, but for a strong regulatory state whose duty is to ensure that liberty prevails over private collective interests.... But the preservation of ‘liberty’ demands that limits be put to the power of the state. The neo-liberal society must be a society ruled by private law (Hayek), and these laws must be out of democratic power’s reach....

The idea that a competent elite should decide and be spared the demands for protection that a population of losers is bound to express runs through the writings of the whole neo-liberal family: ‘The world consists of two classes—the educated and the ignorant—and it is essential for progress that the former should be allowed to dominate the latter’ (Fisher, 1907, p. 20). This elitist concept of political power was present in Rougier (1938), where constitutional reforms are advocated so as to protect the choice of a ruling elite dedicated to the defence of the common rules of individual competition from ‘acting minorities’ and ‘lunatic majorities’. It is considered the duty of the elite to teach the masses respect for competence.... The “solutions” proposed by the various neo-liberal schools of thought are based on a combination of enlightened elites and constitutional rules resulting in a limit to democracy. Following the elitism of Schumpeter, the masses could at most choose their rulers, but they should let them rule and not interfere in their decisions. One finds expressions of this fear of the masses dictating their will to the elite in neo-conservative literature too, in Crozier et al. (1975), for instance.30 The egalitarian demands and the active political participation of the poor would imply that “bad” decisions would be taken. In order for “good” decisions to prevail, a large number of decisions should be out of the reach of democratic control and left to experts (Mouffe, 1986). This limit to popular sovereignty is a major theme of neo-liberal thought.

February 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

Glenn -

Actually, I think that "trust in government" as measured in polling is largely a sign of identity rather than belief. IMO, like the other issues that Dan examines, when you ask a conservative if they "trust in government," you're essentially asking them who they are not what they believe or what they do or don't trust in.

Conz selectively trust and distrust in government on an issue by issue basis - and sometimes they even switch on issues; they "trusted in government" to implement an individual mandate until they didn't, when the individual mandate became government overreach and tyranny. Conz more than libz, "trust on government" to run a massive criminal justice industry - and for what benefit? High crime rates and high incarceration rates.

That said, I think that the same patterns are largely mirrored among libz.

The prevalence of cultural cognition/motivated reasoning is not aligned by ideological orientation. Those are features of human psychology and human cognition that run across ideological lines.

February 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

Slightly off topic ...

Did you see that conservatives expressed greater "confidence" in "leaders of scientific community" than they did in the executive branch of US govt ... when Ronald Reagan was president?! And GW Bush?! Greater than in leaders of any other institution other than either "medicine" (when Reagan president) and "military" when Bush was?

That's what the measure Gauchat uses to document "growing distrust in science" among conservatives, triggered by Ronald Reagan & GW Bush, actually shows. When one actually looks.

I don't believe motivated reasoning explains individuals.

But I know you tell people, appropriately, to be mindful of its inevitable effect on them.

I feel, too, from engaging you that, like me, you worry about your vulnerability to it & rely on the critical scrutiny of your work/comments by others (your friends, in this regard) to help protect you, since obviously no one can detect its effect on him- or herself by conscious introspection.

Protect you, of course, not by accusing you of it -- it's wrong to think that one can detect it in any individual, too! -- but by saying, "wait a minute ... what about the evidence that ...."

Again, what's the question?

Yes, there are many reprehensible Republican politicians and conflict entrepreneurs,

No, the people who call themlselves "Republicans" in US are not anti-vaccine or distrustful of science

There are also reprehensible conflcit entrepreneurs in Dem party & in liberal media: they reveal themselves by saying that ordinary people who call themselves "Repubicans" -- & who overwhelmingly say they love vaccines, and who do in fact vaccinate their children at same rate as Dems -- are "anti-science" b/c particular idiots who happen to be Republicans say they think vaccines are unsafe.

The failure to notice the symmetry here is evidence of the symmetry of ideologically motivated reasoning. Again, not in you but in general

February 6, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@ Joshua said:

That said, I think that the same patterns are largely mirrored among libz.

The prevalence of cultural cognition/motivated reasoning is not aligned by ideological orientation. Those are features of human psychology and human cognition that run across ideological lines.

As a long-time LGBT grassroots political activist and veteran of the culture wars, that's pretty much the conclusion I've come to.

The moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt has a chapter in his book The Happiness Hypothesis called "The Faults of Others." He begins the chapter by quoting Matthew 7:3-5:

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.

He goes on to conclude that

One of the most universal pieces of advice from across cultures and eras is that we are all hypocrites, and in our condemnation of others' hypocrisy we only compound our own. Social psychologists have recently isolated the mechanisms that make us blind to the logs in our own eyes. The moral implications of these findings are disturbing: indeed, they challenge our greatest moral certainties. But the implications can be liberating, too, freeing you from destructive moralism and divisive self-righteousness.

February 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@ Joshua

And I think if you carefully read Bruno Amable's paper, published by no less than Oxford University Press mind you, that you can see that it is a manifesto for totalitarian governance. And this is not so because of the neo-liberals' moralism and self-righteousness, which I think you and I both agree are universal to the human race, but because the neo-liberals seek to destroy the democratic safeguards which the Founding Fathers built into the Constitution to protect against moralism and self-righteousness.

As it turns out, some of the Founding Fathers had a great understanding and appreciation of human imperfection. And the protection against moralism and self-righteousness they built into the Constitution was the balance of powers, both between the three branches of government and between the federal and local levels of government. As Hannah Arendt explains in On Revolution:

The discovery, contained in one sentence, spells out the forgotten principle underlying the whole structure of separated powers: that only power arrests power... [P]ower, contrary to what we are inclined to think, cannot be checked, at least not reliably, by laws..., and in a conflict between law and power it is seldom the law which will emerge as victor..... Power can be stopped and still be kept intact only by power, so that the principle of the separation of power not only provides a guarantee against the monopolization of power by one part of the government, but actually provides a kind of mechanism, built into the very heart of government, through which new power is constantly generated, without, however, being able to overgrow and expand to the detriment of other centres or sources of power. Montesquieu's famous insight that even virtue stands in need of limitation and that even an excess of reason is undesirable occurs in his discussion of the nature of power....

How well this part of Montesquieu's teaching was understood in the days of the foundation of the republic! On the level of theory, its greatest defender was John Adams, whose entire political thought turned about the balance of powers. And when he wrote: 'Power must be opposed to power, force to force, strength to strength, interest to interest, as well as reason to reason, eloquence to eloquence, and passion to passion', he obviously believed he had found in this very opposition an instrument to generate more power, more strength, more reason, and not to abolish them.

In The Irony of American History Reinhold Niebuhr comes to very similar conclusions:

Adams, as every Christian understanding of man has done, nicely anticipated the Marxist theory of an "ideological taint" in reason when men reason about each other's affairs and arrive at conclusions about each other's virtues, interests and motives. The crowning irony of the Marxist theory of ideology is that it foolishly and self-righteously confined the source of this taint to economic interest and to a particular class. It was, therefore, incapable of recognizing all the corruptions of ambition and power which would creep inevitably into its paradise of innocency....

The liberal world which opposes this monstrous evil is filled ironically with milder forms of the same pretension. Fortunately they have not resulted in the same evils [keep in mind Niebuhr is writing this in 1952, before the monstrous evils of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism raised their ugly heads], partly because they are not as consistently held; and partly because we have not invested our ostensible "innocents" with inordinate power. Though a tremendous amount of illusion about human nature expresses itself in American culture, our political institutions contain many of the safeguards against the selfish abuse of power which our Calvinist fathers insisted upon. According to the accepted theory, our democracy owes everything to the believers in the innocency and perfectibility of man and little to the reservations about human nature which emanated from the Christianity of New England. But fortunately there are quite a few accents in our constitution which spell out the warning of John Cotton: "Let all the world give mortall man no greater power than they are content they shall use, for use it they will.... And they that have the liberty to speak great things you will find that they will speak great blasphemies."

James Bryce gives the following estimate of the philosophy which informed our constitution: "Someone has said that the American government and constitution are based on the theology of Calvin and the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. This is at least true that there is a hearty puritanism in the view of human nature which pervades the instrument of 1787. It is a work of men who believed in original sin and were resolved to leave open for transgressors no door which they could possibly shut...."

"The doctrine of the separation of powers," declared Mr. Justice Brandeis, "was adopted by the convention of 1787 not to promote efficiency but to preclude the arbitrary exercise of power -- not to avoid friction but by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of governmental powers among these departments to save the people from autocracy."....

But these reservations of Christian realism in our culture cannot obscure the fact that, next to the Russian pretensions, we are (according to our traditional theory) the most innocent nation on earth....

Our pretensions of innocency therefore heightened the whole concept of a virtuous humanity which characterizes the culture of our era; and involve us in the ironic incongruity between our illusions and the realities which we experience. We find it almost as difficult as the communists to believe that anyone could think ill of us, since we are as persuaded as they that our society is so essentially virtuous that only malice could prompt criticism of any of our actions.

Of course all this is lost upon moral absolutists like Amable. By setting up competition as "a supreme principle" and advocating that it "should be placed above political influences," he ignores all the pitfalls which Arendt warns of in Denktagebuch:

In the moment of action, annoyingly enough, it turns out, first, that the "absolute," that which is "above" the senses -- the true, good, beautiful -- is not graspable, because no one knows concretely what it is. To be sure, everyone has a conception of it, but each concretely imagines it as something entirely different.... [B]y applying the absolute -- justice, for example, or the "ideal" in general (as in Nietzsche) -- to an end, one first makes unjust, bestial actions possible, because the "idea," justice itself, no longer exists as a yardstick, but has become an achievable, producible end within the world.

February 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Stehle

@Joshua

Well that didn't come across clearly at all. My point was that no one is going to think the government is going to force kids to fight lions. I was just trying to come up with a funny example of something ridiculous for Christie to try to get people worried about. With the mandatory vaccination comment, people may well hear it and think "damn gubbment doesn't tell me what to do with my kids!" The lion comment, or anything of the form "I don't think the government should force you to [something it's obviously not going to force you to do]" has no political value.

@Glenn

It is precisely because a rational argument can be made for a state interest in widespread vaccination that people might take seriously the idea that mandatory vaccination is a Democratic party agenda of some kind.

Again I don't think Christie's goal here was to make people have a positive view of what he thinks, the goal seemed to be giving people a negative idea about what his political opponents think.

February 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Dan, if I understand your argument you are forcing a binary choice on Christie:


So either

(1) the brilliant and brilliantly advised Christie made a super shrewd move in appealing to those particular TP members who are out of step with 3/4 of their fellow TP members, and with the same proportion of non-TP conserv/repubs, thereby yanking the rug out from steam-rolling front-runner Jeb Bush, who is obviously being advised by rank amatures on this issue;

or

(2) Christie is a bonehead.

Christie would be a bonehead because he was trying squeeze a "culture conflict" out of almost non-existent differences. If we knew that was Christie's strategy then point made. If that was your point then I think you buried it in noise created by guessing about motivations and strategy and trying to force all the possibilities into a false binary choice.

How about more creativity and dialectical thinking to come up with more options?

3) I thought it was slightly amusing to hear Christie defend the "right to choose". Maybe Christie has a sense of irony.

4) Maybe it never hurts to be heard speaking out for the freedom thang ... especially as a Republican.

5) Look at all the free publicity you are giving him.

6) Christie was goading the opposition to say bonehead things about him.
The news piece you cited stated:

Democrats jumped on Christie's statement, saying his comments show his embrace of "junk science."

To which Christie can reasonable respond that he believes in good science but even more he believes in good public policy ... plus truth, justice, and the American way.

7) He was hoping to get some law prof to go way beyond the data by over relying on guesses about motivations pulled out of said critics lower parts. Thus proving to likely voters that said politician is at least as bright as the law faculty at Yale.

February 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

Dan -

==> "Did you see that conservatives expressed greater "confidence" in "leaders of scientific community" than they did in the executive branch of US govt ... when Ronald Reagan was president?! And GW Bush?! Greater than in leaders of any other institution other than either "medicine" (when Reagan president) and "military" when Bush was...That's what the measure Gauchat uses to document "growing distrust in science" among conservatives, triggered by Ronald Reagan & GW Bush, actually shows. When one actually looks.?"

That's interesting. But I'm not entirely clear what point you're making with that.


==> "I don't believe motivated reasoning explains individuals."

I don't quite understand that either. It would be hard to explain individuals based on only one attribute. It would be hard to explain a particular individual's reasoning based on some kind of abstracted evidence along one axis. I try not to presume "motivated reasoning" for any particular individual, and understand that I have built-in, hard-wired psychological and cognitive tendencies to attribute motivated reasoning to explain the views of those I disagree with on issues where I feel identified.

But when a group of people display reasoning that displays internally contradictory logic, then it certainly strongly suggests a mechanism of bias - and perhaps motivated reasoning.

During the Ebola scare, we have a particular group of folks that are advocating authoritarian public health policy/government action that will restrict freedoms and interfere in the conduct of free enterprise. In response to an increase in numbers of measles infections, that same group starts hand-wringing about individual freedoms being squashed by authoritarian public health policy/government action. Perhaps the main consistency between their views on those issues is that they sit n contradiction to scientific evidence-based public health policy recommendations from public health experts when there is a Dem in the executive office, and those of Democratic politicians.

So we need to be careful about deciding who fits into that group. And we need to check our assumptions about what the underlying "motivations" (not motivations in the sense of motivated reasoning) are. I assume that their motivations, such as it is, is to champion freedom and ensure public health. But it certainly seems that cultural cognition/motivated reasoning is a reasonable conjecture for explaining "what the hell are they thinking!"


==> "Again, what's the question?"

I am asking the question as to whether attacking evidence-based science, by leveraging fear and anti-government ideology, can have an impact on "trust in science" - without actually knowing how to define "trust in science" or how to measure it.

==> "Yes, there are many reprehensible Republican politicians and conflict entrepreneurs,

No, the people who call themlselves "Republicans" in US are not anti-vaccine or distrustful of science

There are also reprehensible conflcit entrepreneurs in Dem party & in liberal media: they reveal themselves by saying that ordinary people who call themselves "Repubicans" -- & who overwhelmingly say they love vaccines, and who do in fact vaccinate their children at same rate as Dems -- are "anti-science" b/c particular idiots who happen to be Republicans say they think vaccines are unsafe."

I don't disagree with any of that. I see left wingers trying to exploit Christie's exploitation of anti-government and anti-science sentiment. I call it fear-mongering about fear-mongering. I see it a lot.

==> "The failure to notice the symmetry here is evidence of the symmetry of ideologically motivated reasoning.

I agree. Seems to me that the theory of motivated reasoning predicts that folks from various ideological orientations will see a disproportionately higher level of motivated reasoning in folks from "other" ideological orientations. That's certainly what I see in the climate wars. Andy West's post over at Climate Etc. was, IMO, a fine example.

February 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ryan -

==> "Well that didn't come across clearly at all."

Making assumptions about my comprehension levels can be dangerous.

==> " With the mandatory vaccination comment, people may well hear it and think "damn gubbment doesn't tell me what to do with my kids!" "

Yeah. That seems to me to be what he was going for. Elect me because I will champion your rights to resist against government tyranny.


From your response to Glenn:

==> "Again I don't think Christie's goal here was to make people have a positive view of what he thinks, the goal seemed to be giving people a negative idea about what his political opponents think."

Yup. "My opponents are tyrants who will rob you of their rights. My governments think that some elitist, ivory tower, latte-drinking scientists have more common sense than you do."

February 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Sorry -

That last sentence should have read..." My [opponents] think that some elitist, ivory tower, latte-drinking scientists have more common sense than you do."

February 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Glenn -

"Adams, as every Christian understanding of man has done, nicely anticipated the Marxist theory of an "ideological taint" in reason when men reason about each other's affairs and arrive at conclusions about each other's virtues, interests and motives. The crowning irony of the Marxist theory of ideology is that it foolishly and self-righteously confined the source of this taint to economic interest and to a particular class. It was, therefore, incapable of recognizing all the corruptions of ambition and power which would creep inevitably into its paradise of innocency...."

Interesting

"The moral implications of these findings are disturbing: indeed, they challenge our greatest moral certainties. But the implications can be liberating, too, freeing you from destructive moralism and divisive self-righteousness."

Well, that is the hope. Perhaps, though, wishful thinking.

February 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

BTW -

I just wanted to give Ron Paul a shout out for some beautiful reasoning:


“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related,” Paul said in a statement. “I did not allege causation.”

February 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I know I shouldn't beat a dead horse, but because without this detail it just isn't as beautiful, I just have to:

Here was where Paul was only pointing out temporal relationship without alleging causation:

“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”

Normal before vaccination, profound disorders after vaccination, temporal relationship but not causation.

What was he thinking? We can't assume motivated reasoning for any particular individual....but we could say that it is a fine example of what motivated reasoning looks like when it takes place.

February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Cortland:

You are understanding correctly. The post presented evidence that, it was submitted, could be used to refine assessment of the relative likelihood of two competing hypotheses.

I don't think empirical evidence can ever do more than that: give us more or less reason to believe one thing relative to another than we otherwise would have had. Of course, it can do that only if it is valid: that is, only if the evidence genuinely suppports inferences one way or the other.

When valid in that sense, the evidence won't "prove" anything conclusively. It won't do that, first, b/c nothing ever can be proven conclusively; the most one can expect and hope for is more evidence that somethign is or isn't likely true than one had before.

Second, valid evidence won't "prove" a hypothesis conclusively b/c any theory is always underdetermined w/r/t supporting evidence, and all evidence overdetermined w/r/t possible theories. That is, it will & *always* be possible to invoke some other potential explanation for an observation that one put oneself in a position to make -- or fail to make -- in a manner that would give one more reason or less to believe that a particular conjecture was true than one had before.

All of these basic, commonplace, obvious things.

But it's amazing how much trouble people can get in when they forget or simply don't understand them!

Whatever you think the probability was of the various alternative explanations for Christie, I agree, they all remain as worthy of being credited or discredited after considreation of the evidence set forth.

February 8, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan
Thanks for your reply. As one writer to another I would say that I found your reasoning hard to follow. Why? The evidence you provide doesn't seem to support one of your key arguments. Second because of a confusion about terms. Finally because the idea of the relative likelihood of two competing hypotheses" was changed or lost in the reinstatement at the end of post.

I think the problem begins your comment about "partisan divisions on universal vaccination".
1. By "universal vaccination" I'm thinking now that you mean mandatory vaccination. That was my first point of uncertainly.
2. The second is that as I see the political landscape there is a bi-partisan split on mandatory vaccinations. That is, significant portions of the left and right agree on "parental choice" on childhood immunization. Furthermore, I didn't find anything in the data you cite that supports or even speaks to either hypothesis about the demographic breakdown!
(As far as I can see Gov. Christie agrees with president Obama and the ACLU on the desired policy on mandatory vaccinations. From one of your older blog posts it appears that you disagree with the Christie/Obama/ACLU position as perhaps does Hillary Clinton. I know others that lean to the political left that agree with you. This anecdotal evidence supports my theory of a bi-partisan split.)

there is tremendous public support for universal vaccination across all demographic, cultural, religious and other lines in the U.S.

The references you cite and your discussion do not not support that claim. If that evidence is there I didn't see it nor did you not draw attention to it. As far as I see you provide evidence that the public mostly believes in the efficacy of vaccinations and that the rate of vaccinations is and remains 90% or so for the better known vaccinations. And nothing on support for mandatory vaccinations to achieve universal vaccination.

Thus you make reference to "universal vaccination" but then provide evidence for public attitudes about vaccination safety and vaccination rates. So you can see why I'm confused about what your argument is.

The post presented evidence that, it was submitted, could be used to refine assessment of the relative likelihood of two competing hypotheses.

Yes you did pose that in the first 3 paragraphs. But the blog ended with a somewhat different either/or binary choice that lost the flavor of a relative likelihood. In all the confusion in between I lost track of your original premise.

Conclusion:
Next time I think you need to draw attention and explain what evidence you have for "tremendous public support for universal vaccination". Specifically for support for mandatory, universal vaccination without the possibility of "parental choice" / an opt out. So far I don't see that such evidence exists. You also need to explain the Christie/Obama/ACLU agreement.

P.S. My sense of my own affect bias is that my belief in vaccinations and my opposition to a public policy of mandatory vaccination come from very different sources, experiences and values. I am all for universal and voluntary vaccinations. Vaccination is about medical science and partly my own experience with a childhood disease; vaccination policy comes from my beliefs in a liberal society.

February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCortlandt Wilson

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