Is the political left more science-minded than the political right?

In the article “Why some people still think climate change isn’t real“, the author stated that political ideology is the strongest predictor for denial and conservative voters are more likely to discount climate change. The focus is on conservatives that are said to be ideologically biased and therefor can’t accept the facts of climate science.

I heard many times before that the political right tend to deny the science. In the article itself, there was a link to another “Climate explained” article titled “Why are climate change skeptics often right-wing conservatives“. This was also explained in several papers authored by John Cook and it was therefor no surprise that this claim also appeared in the consensus handbook (in the chapter “The role of politics and information”):

Why is there such a large consensus gap? Figure 4 reveals several contributors. First, we see that public perception of consensus varies widely across the political spectrum. The more politically conservative a person, the lower their perceived consensus. This means that political bias plays a large role in lowering perceived consensus.

But even at the liberal end of the political spectrum, there’s a gap between public perception and the 97% consensus. This means that information (either lack of awareness or the influence of misinformation) is arguably an even greater contributor to the consensus gap than political bias. This is not surprising given that misinformation campaigns have persistently confused the public about the consensus for nearly three decades. In fact, the first messages that the public heard about the consensus on climate change came in the form of misinformation.

Consensus handbook: public beliefs graph (figure 4)

This graph seems to suggest that true liberals have no cultural bias whatsoever and the more conservative, the more cultural bias creeps in. At the true conservative end, the graph line takes a dive and the cultural bias is way higher than the “information deficit / misinformation surplus”.

I can certainly believe that the political left doesn’t have a problem with the 97% consensus (on catastrophic climate change), but does this also means that their position is generally informed by “the science”? When I look in my country, the political left is not exactly science-minded (on the contrary) and is also very selective when it comes to their preference for science.

When it comes to for example GMOs, they are perfectly fine with rejecting the science. Whatever science says on this subject, they reject it. Yet, they seem to fully embrace the science of global warming. Not only in Belgium, I see the same happening in other countries too.

What it is that attracts them to global warming/climate change? Just as the political right, they don’t have the ability to assess the science. Remember, the consensus is between a very small group of scientists who need to be believed without questioning. There is obviously something else than logic and reason that draws them to accept the consensus.

It is not difficult to understand what it is, just look at the problem as proposed and its potential solutions. It is a global problem which could potentially be solved by strong governmental control, imposing economic equality/equity, limiting big industry and free markets, global action, radial reform, social justice,… For example, the blame could be put on Big Oil/Big Gas, justifying more (governmental) control over big industry. The developed countries could also be blamed more than developing countries, thus facilitating wealth transfer from the North to the South. The potential impact on the poor could favor taking from the rich and giving it to the poor. And so on. The whole thing is a left-wing feast. Contrary to those pesky deniers having “climate science rubbing up the wrong way” (as David Hall eloquently put in his article), in the case of the left-wing, climate science rubs up the right way, making it very easy to accept the “science” at face value.

So OF COURSE the political left is generally hooked on global warming and tend to believe their version of the consensus (on catastrophic global warming) at face value. It is a dream problem and the proposed solutions are perfectly in line with their core values. They are not embracing the science, they just are hiding behind it … but only when it suits their case.

That is however not what we see in the Conversation article or in the Cook papers. It is framed as one side that is ideologically motivated and have it wrong, while it is silently assumed that the other side has the science and the facts on their side and therefor has it right. Making the latter side wondering why on earth the former side is so biased and ideologically motivated. This framing leads to the need to convince the opposing side of the own rightness. Since that side is assumed to be biased and not following facts and logic, these instinctive acting creatures need to be tricked into accepting the correct (left-wing) beliefs.

Concluding, I have no problem believing that political ideology is an important factor in perceiving a consensus on catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, but I really doubt that only the political right have a bias towards (climate) science. It should come as no surprise that the political left accepts climate science without discussion, it just fits snugly with their political ideology. That part of the story is omitted though. We only hear about right-wing ideological bias and how this is wrong, but what we don’t hear is that their perception of the science and consensus might originate from left-wing ideological bias in the first place.

3 thoughts on “Is the political left more science-minded than the political right?

  1. David Gossman

    The nonsense inherent in this argument is the assumption that there is such a thing as a 97% consensus (this has been clearly disproven) or that it matters….science is not a process of consensus….that is a political exercise and not the way real science works.

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    1. trustyetverify Post author

      There are several papers that surveyed the level of the consensus, one of which was referred in the second Conversation article. As far as I could find, a consensus was found on warming due to human emissions, but not necessarily on dangerous global warming due to human emissions (as it is generally used by activists and also in that article). While I agree with you that science is not done by consensus, those papers found a 97% consensus, although not the one that is communicated.

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  2. oiltranslator

    Liberal as a calque for anti-American, beer-legalizing Jew is a Republican invention of October 1932. There really was a 1930 Liberal Party of America that was anti-Klan and pro-repeal. Let and Right also acquired specious and spurious meaning at about that time. For clarity I call fascists fascists and communists communists, let the chips fall. They themselves agree on these terms when describing each other, and I urge voters to pay attention to what they say about each other before voting Libertarian.

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