New research suggests that liberals, as well as conservatives, can be biased against science that doesn’t align with their political views.
The study found that people from both the left and right expressed less trust in science when they were presented with facts that challenged specific politicized issues.
For conservatives, climate change and evolution were the issues that led them to lose some trust in science. For liberals, it was hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and nuclear power.
The results challenge recent books and articles that claim conservatives alone have difficulty dealing with scientific fact.
“Liberals are also capable of processing scientific information in a biased manner,” said Erik Nisbet, co-author of the study and associate professor of communication and political science at The Ohio State University.
“They aren’t inherently superior to conservatives.”
The researchers caution that the results shouldn’t be interpreted to create a false balance in which each side could be seen as equally wrong on all issues.
“Our point is there is evidence of bias on both sides, although the bias may appear on different issues,” said co-author R. Kelly Garrett, also an associate professor of communication at Ohio State.
For example, “liberals may be biased about some issues, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong about humans causing climate change,” Nisbet said. “You can’t say our study supports the climate denialism movement.”
The study, also co-authored by graduate student Kathryn Cooper, appears in the March 2015 issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.