A law professor at Yale recently conducted an analysis of scientific comprehension amongst various political groups, and he was quite surprised by the results.
The professor, Dan M. Kahan, had gone into the analysis assuming that there would be a negative correlation in scientific comprehension and the Tea Party. The opposite was true.
Via Independent Journal Review:
Yale Law professor Dan M. Kahan was conducting an analysis of the scientific comprehension of various political groups when he ran into a shocking discovery: tea party supporters are slightly more scientifically literate than the non-tea party population.
When composing histograms of the scientific inference abilities of liberals and conservatives, he discovered that those who described themselves as tea party supporters came out pretty well, based on National Science Foundation standards of evaluation …
… tea party members appear to be slightly, but solidly more scientifically literate than non-tea party members.
In fact, tea party members tend to be more scientifically literate than other self-described conservatives, who have slightly negative scores, overall. These findings should give both liberal and GOP establishment types pause over their caricatures of tea party constituents.
So why did this professor just assume that Tea Partiers were less scientifically inclined?
Because the media helped shape his opinion.
Kahan writes on his blog, the Cultural Cognition Project:
‘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).
I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.
The professor goes on to confess he still holds negative political views of the Tea Party, but that he can no longer assume they are less knowledgeable because of their affiliations.