CHICAGO — Conservative voters may be more likely to be considered science deniers due to their beliefs about the oft-debated subject of climate change; but a new study shows that regardless of whether one leans towards the right or left, people of all political persuasions engage in forms of science denial.
The level of denial, researchers say, is tied to the subject matter, which is typically politically aligned. Despite what scientific studies may conclude, voters stick to their guns, so to speak, and question the veracity of the source.
Social psychologists from the University of Illinois-Chicago tested a group of politically-diverse individuals for their experiment. After identifying each participant’s general political stance, the authors had each person review and evaluate fictitious scientific data and then decide what the results concluded. The researchers then informed the participants of the correct data interpretations and had them rate how much they agreed with and trusted the actual findings.
“Not only were both sides equally likely to seek out attitude confirming scientific conclusions, both were also willing to work harder and longer when doing so got them to a conclusion that fit with their existing attitudes,” says study co-author Anthony Washburn, a graduate student in psychology, in a UIC release. “And when the correct interpretation of the results did not confirm participants’ attitudes, they were more likely to view the researchers involved with the study as less trustworthy, less knowledgeable, and disagreed with their conclusions more.”
The results of the research appeared consistent across six hot-button political issues: gun control, immigration, health care reform, climate change, nuclear power, and same-sex marriage. To be sure, the authors measured results against a control subject — skin rash treatments.
The research suggests that everyone, not just conservative voters, wants the world to fit in more with their personal preferences, political or not.
“Before assuming that one group of people or another are anti-science because they disagree with one scientific conclusion, we should make an effort to consider different motivations that are likely at play, which might have nothing to do with science per se,” adds co-author Linda Skitka, a professor of psychology at the school
The full study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
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