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Tuesday
Jul112017

Confidence in science 2016

I've featured a version of this graphic a couple of times in the past (here & here), but this updates it for 2016, the lastest GSS report on responses to GSS's well known "institutional trust" battery  The batter solicits "confidence" in those who "run" 13 institutions.

One of these is the "science community, which since the beginning of the GSS (1974) has always ranked second, behind either "the military" or "medicine." What's more, it has always been ranked no lower than second regardless of citizens' political outlooks.

No change in 2016:

 Conservatives still rank "those who run" the "science community" ahead of big business and banks. Religious people still see the science community as more worthy of confidence than organized religion.

So why do we see so many conflicts over decision-relevant science?

I have my own answer to that question. But what's yours?

 

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Reader Comments (14)

Dan,

Did you see the latest Pew survey:
http://www.people-press.org/2017/07/10/sharp-partisan-divisions-in-views-of-national-institutions/

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jonathan -- thanks!


Have you seen this one?

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/18/most-americans-trust-the-military-and-scientists-to-act-in-the-publics-interest/

July 11, 2017 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan,

Yes - so what to make of this? My guess is the framing matters a lot for this question. If you remind conservatives that much of the science community takes place at universities, they might have a lower view of the science community. Or, they might have a better view of universities. Or, both. Which is it?

What toxic meme working over the last 2 years caused the sharp change in conservative views of colleges & universities - was it the realization that academics tend to be more liberal? I find that hard to believe that "secret" was kept so well prior to 2015. So, what happened?

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"Conservatives still rank "those who run" the "science community" ahead of big business and banks. Religious people still see the science community as more worthy of confidence than organized religion. So why do we see so many conflicts over decision-relevant science?"

Because they distinguish good science/scientists from bad ones. If you ask about science in general, everyone assumes you're talking about the majority good scientists. If you talk about particular scientific topics, then people can make the distinction.

Ask "Do you trust scientists?", then ask "Do you trust consensus-following climate scientists?" and see if you still get no difference between liberals/conservatives.

Good scientists don't say things like "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?" It's arguable whether such a person is a 'scientist' at all, whatever it might say on their office door. You can trust scientists generally, without therefore necessarily trusting people who threaten to delete their own data rather than let anyone examine it.

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

>'So why do we see so many conflicts over decision-relevant science?'

Because all cultures (including political, spiritual, philosophical, tribal or whatever other brands) are biased towards science that aligns with their values, and against science which clashes with their values. This to a greater extent for stronger culture (and with scientists themselves not being immune), albeit much science falls beneath the radar of being 'noticed' by main cultures, so escaping most effects. Despite science picking up some cultural characteristics of its own, regarded as a whole (so a relatively value neutral concept, even for religions - e.g. Newton saw science as a path to better understand God's works), science is still very trusted across cultures. Yet *particular* science issues may challenge or promote cultural values within specific domains, hence undermining or reinforcing the base trust. The ways in which this occurs are independent of the contested science topic, or the relevant cultural domain. The relatively new enterprise of science (and hence whatever issues it pursues) is both perceived and enacted in an environment of very-long-evolved social mechanisms, via which multiple cultures are dynamically maintained, and with which any science that gets 'noticed' (i.e. is importantly DR to society, or simply gets perceived as importantly DR) becomes deeply entangled. It is these mechanisms which cause the patterns of bias, albeit this does not mean mitigations are impossible.

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Jonathan -

=={ What toxic meme working over the last 2 years caused the sharp change in conservative views of colleges & universities. }==

I think it's important to note the level of impact from the Republicans at the far end of the ideological spectrum. Most of the overall change seems to be comprised by a large change within that subgroup. I think an explanation should probably focus on that group. I suspect that the explosion in the influence of Breitbart is a related phenomenon.

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Jonathan -

Consider that Harvard study you dropped in the thread downstairs.

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-epa-pruitt-idUSKBN19W2D0

July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

"What toxic meme working over the last 2 years caused the sharp change in conservative views of colleges & universities - was it the realization that academics tend to be more liberal? I find that hard to believe that "secret" was kept so well prior to 2015. So, what happened?"

This sort of stuff?

July 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Jonathan,

"https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-epa-pruitt-idUSKBN19W2D0"

Yes, but do you think it's a good thing or a bad one? Is it effective science communication? Does it help to break down polarisation by inviting both sides, or because of who is proposing it increase it?

Personally, I don't think TV is a good medium for it - it can't be dealt with in the depth and detail it deserves in a TV format. But I think TV could be a valid component of the debate, if it perhaps introduced a framework for the debate and pointed interested viewers to where they could find more information.

July 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV,

"This sort of stuff?"- Maybe so:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jul/12/conservative-suppression-on-campus-turns-parents-a/

July 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

""This sort of stuff?"- Maybe so:"

Well, you did ask! :-)

July 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

More on this:
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/07/11/dramatic-shift-most-republicans-now-say-colleges-have-negative-impact

July 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Jonathan,

Interesting. They identified the same likely cause.

"It shows that Republicans echo the messages that conservative television and radio bombard them with daily, if not hourly -- in this case, that somehow the world's greatest public university system is a problem, when in fact it has helped produce the world's greatest work force and has attracted generations of people both domestically and from around the world to study on its campuses," he said in an email. "That these universities are state-based institutions in a federal system that Republicans mostly pretend to venerate only compounds their knee-jerk, reactionary attitudes."

Hmmm. That's, like, totally going to debunk those claims of extreme liberal bias and hostility to conservatives...

July 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

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