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Pew survey shows that in the US conservatives trust scientists less than liberals; Rob Sheldon comments

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By a wide margin:

But the English-speaking world is what really stood out. In the UK, the difference between liberals and conservatives was 27 points; Australia was 29 points; Canada was 39; and the US saw the largest difference, with a gap of 42 points between liberals and conservatives. In the States, only 20 percent of conservatives felt that scientists would do the right thing, and only 30 percent felt that scientists made judgements based on facts.

John Timmer, “Conservative unease with science is global, but extreme in the US” at ArsTechnica

Our physics color commentator, Rob Sheldon, offers,


A much more correct title, would say:

Extreme trust difference between conservative and liberals concerning scientists.

Which perfectly encapsulates News’s point—if you politicize science, people stop trusting you. It has nothing to do with “science” and everything to do with “scientists.”

And the fact that the media spin this as a distrust of “Science” tells you that the distrust is well-placed. Why is this so hard to explain?


Fortunately, a single word sums it up today: Surgisphere

See also: At RealClearScience: Replace juries with scientists! So. In a science world where Scientific American broke with a 175-year tradition to endorse a candidate for U.S. President, we are still supposed to believe in some objective gold standard of science? Precisely what those people GAVE UP is any claim to be considered objective. Sorry. Scientists can’t just deke in and out of objectivity whenever it suits them. And they’ll sure miss it when it’s gone.

5 Replies to “Pew survey shows that in the US conservatives trust scientists less than liberals; Rob Sheldon comments

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Well of course. This is the purpose of the whole mess.

    In earlier decades the bias was *somewhat* reversed, but not nearly as strong because Big Science wasn’t nearly as horrible. Before 1946 paid experts were expected to be objective and humble. They told the truth as far as they knew it. Anti-science types were strongly religious, but their religions were a mix of leftish (Christian Science, Spiritualist) and rightish (Adventist, Pentecostal). There wasn’t a sharp universal R/D line in every single area of life.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    At this point this feels kinda like a “geewhiz” survey given scam’s endorsement of the left

  3. 3
    Fasteddious says:

    This article is not quite correct. The actual description for the trust axis on the PEW Research graphic that shows these results is, “% who trust scientists a lot to do what is right for [the country in question]”. That is not the same as trusting scientists in general. Given the media and left hype about “evidence based policy”, “scientific consensus”, and “science shows that”, it is no wonder if conservatives are wary of trusting scientists in general, and trusting them to “do what is right”, is even less likely. Scientists are not moral experts, so what do they know about right or wrong? Even the question “to do what is right” is an odd one to ask about scientists. What scientists “do” as scientists is not (usually) moral action, good or bad. A lot more could be interpreted into this seemingly simple result!
    As an aside, one wonders whether the results would be different if the question was “to do what was left”? i.e. is there some political implication in the use of the word “right” here, even though it was (presumably) a moral question rather than a political one?

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    Given the number who believe the Moon landings were a hoax or who have never heard of the Holocaust or who believe 9/11 was organized by Mossad or the Qanon and other conspiracy theories, the judgment of the American people is questionable.

    Nonetheless, science is a human enterprise. It is affected by all manner of political, social and cultural influences. How could it be otherwise?
    That said, it should resist being being politicized. as far as humanly possible. Individual scientists may support and vote for whoever they like but it is not the business of scientific institutions or journals to endorse politicians or parties. They represent the ideals of science such as objectivity, impartiality and empiricism. As has been pointed out here, expressing political preferences risks undermining public trust in science which benefits no one in the long run.

  5. 5
    Truthfreedom says:

    4 Seversky

    Given the number who believe the Moon landings were a hoax or who have never heard of the Holocaust or who believe 9/11 was organized by Mossad or the Qanon and other conspiracy theories, the judgment of the American people is questionable.

    This coming from a self-proclaimed meat-puppet.

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