Science Comprehension For Tea Party Members Greater Than “Not Teaparty Members”

Dan Kahan, the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law & Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School, is a member of the Cultural Cognition Project, an interdisciplinary team of scholars who use empirical methods to examine the impact of group values on perceptions of risk and related facts.  Much to his surprise, his testing revealed that Tea Party members have higher “science comprehension “ than do “not teaparty members”.  The chart below shows this result:


As note of explanation.  The test contained 21 science knowledge questions.  The participants answered the questions to the best of their knowledge.  If they got 10 correct they were added to the other test takers that also got that number.  The more questions they got correct would result in their score being plotted further to the right. The Tea Party people were plotted on the chart in gray and the “not teaparty members” were plotted in blue. It turns out that the Tea Party member’s science comprehension surpassed that of “not teaparty members”.

The author said:

“ I’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.”

But then he adds:

“Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.”

He is saying that Tea Party member’s political and moral positions are “all very negative”.  He expected, a view he shared with us, that Tea Party members’ corrupt stance would be validated by their inferior knowledge.  And it did not turn out that way.

Perhaps if he were to read something other than New York Times daily plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico and take a huge leap by watching Fox News regularly, and reading conservative-focused internet sites, the scales might fall from his eyes.  Note also the isolation that exists in his world.  He doesn’t know a single Tea Party member.  I know many very liberal, not teaparty members, and I attend  Tea Party meetings.  That doesn’t make me a better person than Mr Kahan,  but it probably does give me a more complete world-view.

Ok, but now some kudos from Mr. Dan Kahan.  He did publish rather than submerge the results.  He has courage, because he could be branded as an   apostate and  get a rough going over by the liberals on the left.

The posting by Mr. Kahan contains other testing he did and can be read by clicking here.


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