Yale Professor Stunned That Tea Partiers Actually Have Decent Scientific Comprehension

Dusten Carlson

Well, this just doesn’t fit the narrative. A Yale professor who analyzed the scientific comprehension of various political and religious groups found something quite “surprising,” in his words: Tea Partiers are not as dumb as the media would have you believe.

According to Yale’s Daniel M. Kahan, who used data from the National Science Foundation’s “Science Indicators,” the Cognitive Reflection Test and a “nationally representative sample of U.S. adults recruited to participate in a study of vaccine risk perceptions,” self-identified Tea Party members have a “slightly higher scientific comprehension” than everyone else.

He also found that Tea Partiers tend to score higher scientific comprehension than “conservatives.”

Though Kahan admits that the relationship is “trivially small,” he noted that he was incredibly surprised by the findings.

“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).”

He concluded:

“I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.”

“Next time I collect data, too, I won’t be surprised at all if the correlations between science comprehension and political ideology or identification with the Tea Party movement disappear or flip their signs.”

Also among his findings: “Scientific literacy correlates negatively with religiosity.” And “Science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction — i.e., the more ‘liberal’ and ‘Democrat,’ the more science comprehending.”

Are you surprised by Professor Kahan’s Tea Party findings? Do you dispute them? Let us know why in the comments below!

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]