There's a new study recently published that will probably not surprise anyone, but it's interesting nevertheless. The authors investigated views on environmental issues of US voters. Instead of just splitting voters into Democrats, Republicans and Independents, they split them into four. They split Republicans into Tea Party Republicans and mainstream Republicans.
What they found was that Republicans that didn't align themselves with the Tea Party were more likely to have realistic concerns and attitudes toward environmental issues. Similar to Independents. It was those who indicated they were Tea Party Republicans who were batty. And not just about the environment, but about lots of other things as well.
The paper, by Lawrence C. Hamilton & Kei Saito from the University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA, describes their findings:
Tea Party supporters are less likely than non–Tea Party Republicans to trust scientists for information about environmental issues, accept human evolution, believe either the physical reality or the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, or recognise trends in Arctic ice, glaciers, or CO2. Despite factual gaps, Tea Party supporters express greater confidence in their own understanding of climate change. Independents, on the other hand, differ less from non–Tea Party Republicans on most of these questions—although Independents do more often accept the scientific consensus on climate change. On many science and environmental questions, Republicans and Tea Party supporters stand farther apart than Republicans and Independents.
I bet you've heard that before. The part where the Tea Party supporters, despite factual gaps, "express greater confidence in their own understanding of climate change" sounds familiar, too. I wonder, if asked (and answered truthfully) how many WUWT-ers would admit to being Tea Party Republicans?
The paper itself (open access) describes the difference between mainstream and Tea Party Republicans:
First, compared with mainstream Republicans, Tea Party members are more likely to be older, middle-class, male, European-American Evangelicals with high levels of education (Maxwell and Parent 2012, 2013, Skocpol and Williamson 2012). Second, Tea Party members are more likely to be highly ideological, particularly around fiscal conservatism (Bullock and Hood 2012, Maxwell and Parent 2012, 2013, Skocpol and Williamson 2012) and libertarian principles (Skocpol and Williamson 2012, Knowles et al. 2013). Third, current research has not supported the popular notion that Tea Party membership is directly related to racism, despite its monoracial profile (Skocpol and Williamson 2012, Knowles et al. 2013, Maxwell and Parent 2013).
It also has this chart, the bottom bar of which could be from a paper by Dunning and Kruger, or a snapshot of WUWT readers. Click to enlarge it or go to the paper, it's Figure 1:
|Figure 1. Science, environmental, and climate perceptions by political party identification – Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and Tea Party supporters.|
Notice especially the last box in the bottom right hand corner. Compare the opinion of Tea Partiers about their own knowledge, with their wrong ideas about science in the other boxes. Is it any wonder they are regarded as utter nutters when it comes to science?
Another interesting aspect is education. For Tea Partiers, education cements their denial more firmly, which is something other studies have shown. It does not affect mainstream Republicans to a great extent. Acceptance of climate science increases with education for Democrats and, to a lesser extent Independents. This is from the paper:
Education × party interaction effects, widely observed with more traditional party or ideology indicators (e.g. Hamilton 2008, 2011, 2012, McCright 2011, McCright and Dunlap 2011), occur in this four-party analysis as well. The effects of education are positive and significantly stronger for Democrats, compared with non–Tea Party Republicans, regarding trust in scientists, evolution, and four climate items in Table 2.
For the most polarised question, climate, the effects of education are negative and significantly different for Tea Party supporters compared with non–Tea Party Republicans. Thus, among non–Tea Party Republicans, agreement with the scientific consensus on climate change is almost unaffected by education. Among Tea Party supporters, however, agreement with the scientific consensus declines with education.
This is shown in Figure 3 from the paper:
|Figure 3. Belief in anthropogenic climate change by education, for Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and Tea Party supporters.|
In the press release, Professor Hamilton suggests that this is because Tea Partiers don't trust scientists so go to the crackpots instead (like Bob Altemeyer's right wing authoritarian followers) - my paras and emphasis:
Hamilton suggests that’s because well-educated individuals actively acquire information, but they also choose their sources. Those who trust scientists are more influenced by research findings or major science organizations, but those who don’t trust scientists know where to find alternative sources that better fit their beliefs.
“People with more education could have greater awareness of their political leaders’ and parties’ positions, or take more initiative themselves to acquire information that reinforces their worldview,” Hamilton says. “When it comes to climate change, for example, there are many excellent real science sources, but also many political or pseudo-science sources that sound convincing to some people.”
That rings a bell, doesn't it. Tea Party Republicans are odd creatures. It shows why there is little point in or hope of changing their attitudes. In the paper, the authors conclude:
The keys to gridlock on at least some environmental problems may depend not on divisions between the two main parties, as often assumed, but rather on divisions between factions of one party.
I've just covered a couple of points raised in the paper. There is a lot more to it and it's worth a read, if you are puzzled about the entrenched views of deniers.
You probably know that these findings are not new. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The paper states that it is an update of update research on ‘the social bases of environmental concern’. (See here - from 1992 and here - from 1980.)
Lawrence C. Hamilton, Kei Saito. "A four-party view of US environmental concern. Environmental Politics", 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2014.976485