Who Knew? Tea Partiers Know Science


Yale professor Dan Kahan made an interesting discovery while conducting some statistical comparisons of science comprehension across education, religion, and ideology. What he found might surprise you.

Using a scale intended to measure ones' substantive scientific knowledge and critical reasoning skills, he found liberals/Democrats scored significantly higher than conservatives/Republicans on the science comprehensive scale. However, tea party supporters (19% of his sample) were statistically more likely than non-tea partiers to also score higher on the science comprehension scale. While the statistically significant difference is not likely substantive, it demonstrates that tea partiers on average are different than conservative Republicans.

Kahan also found that those who graduated from college scored statistically higher on the index of science comprehension. Less religious people were also slightly more likely to score higher on the index, although perhaps not substantively so.

Reflecting on this surprising tea party finding, Kahan writes:

"I've got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I'd be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv—& I don't watch Fox News very often—and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico)."  

Here are the charts:

Source: Dan Kahan, The Cultural Cognition Project, Yale Law School