Yale Law professor Dan M. Kahan was conducting an analysis of the scientific comprehension of various political groups when he ran into a shocking discovery: tea party supporters are slightly more scientifically literate than the non-tea party population.
When composing histograms of the scientific inference abilities of liberals and conservatives, he discovered that those who described themselves as tea party supporters came out pretty well, based on National Science Foundation standards of evaluation:
The shift to the right on the gray columns represents a positive correlation between tea party members and generally higher scientific test scores. The r=0.05 is not a drastically higher score, but the findings are statistically significant to p=.05. In other words, tea party members appear to be slightly, but solidly more scientifically literate than non-tea party members.
In fact, tea party members tend to be more scientifically literate than other self-described conservatives, who have slightly negative scores, overall. These findings should give both liberal and GOP establishment types pause over their caricatures of tea party constituents.
Remarkable was the professor's reaction on the Yale Law “Cultural Cognition Project” website:
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.
Good for you, professor, for remaining open-minded. That's what fruitful research is all about. It turns out that even the New York Times reported in 2010 that tea party supporters are wealthier and more college-educated than the general public.
A mainstream media smear campaign of ordinary citizens has convinced much of the general public that members of the tea party are uneducated, backwards dupes of big moneyed interests who do not comprehend what is going on, whether on scientific matters like manmade global warming, or on political matters like fiscal issues. Maybe they're just ahead of the curve?
UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh reads this piece on air.
UPDATE2: Mark Levin discusses this piece on the air.