In “Dare to question establishment science” (The National Post Apr 6, 2012), Lawrence Solomon tells us about some findings from Gordon Gauchat’s study of liberals vs. conservatives on science that don’t get much publicity:
In 1974, the starting point for the study, all political groups that he considered — liberals, moderates and conservatives — held science in high esteem, with conservatives the most enamoured of science of the three, followed closely by liberals and then moderates. It was the moderates, not the conservatives, who first became disillusioned with the scientific establishment, and the moderates remain relatively disillusioned today. After the moderates began their disillusionment, conservatives, too, began to question the science that the establishment was purveying. Today the conservatives are more disillusioned than even the moderates, but only by a small margin. These two groups started at about the same place in 1974 and they have today arrived at about the same place. Nothing especially noteworthy here.
The liberals, on the other hand, never stopped being enamoured by the scientific establishment, never took seriously the complaints of establishment critics, never themselves questioned the science that the establishment produced.
Gauchat himself never asked why the liberals seem relatively impervious to change over time — they are today at about the same place as they were in 1974 — and why the liberals more resemble the uneducated conservatives and moderates in his cohort, who have also been relatively resistant to change. That is a mystery worth delving into.
It may be relevant that in recent years there has been a number of well-publicized science frauds and much embarrassing politicization of science. One would expect better educated people to be more aware of these problems than less educated ones.
As for why liberals continue to believe, many of the frauds ( Diedrik Stapel comes to mind here) appeared to support their views (indeed, in many cases, that was precisely the point of the temptation for the fraudsters). So it may not be that much of a mystery.