With old divisions between left and right over matters such as economics and size of government breaking down, the primary difference between liberals and conservatives have come down to holding a reality-based world view versus one based upon superstition and the misinformation commonly spread by the right wing noise machine. With the Republican Party being dominated by the religious right it comes as no surprise to find that scientists are overwhelmingly backing the Democrats over Republicans. A Pew Research Center survey of scientists found:
Slightly more than half of scientists (52%) describe their own political views as liberal, including 14% who describe themselves as very liberal. Among the general public, 20% describe themselves as liberal, with just 5% calling themselves very liberal.
Most scientists identify as Democrats (55%), while 32% identify as independents and just 6% say they are Republicans. When the leanings of independents are considered, fully 81% identify as Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 12% who either identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP. Among the public, there are far fewer self-described Democrats (35%) and far more Republicans (23%). Overall, 52% of the public identifies as Democratic or leans Democratic, while 35% identifies as Republican or leans Republican.
The survey also compared views on scientific issues with those of the general public. You have to take such questions with a grain of salt as a survey which gives a choice of agreeing or disagreeing could obtain different results with changes in wording. The survey found far greater belief in evolution among scientists than the general public:
Scientists were also more likely to believe in a human role in global warming and see this as an important problem:
A large majority (85%) of Americans says that the earth is warming, but they are more divided on the cause of climate change than are scientists. About half of the general public (49%) says the earth is getting warmer “mostly because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels,” while 36% say warming is occurring “mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere.” About one-in-ten (11%) say “there is no solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer.”
By contrast, 84% of scientists say the earth is warming because of human activity. Scientists also are far more likely than the public to regard global warming as a very serious problem: 70% express this view, compared with 47% of the public. Public attitudes about whether global warming represents a serious problem have changed little in recent years.
It would also be helpful to have a break down by field. Typically when conservatives quote scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on climate change such views are from scientists in other fields while there is a high degree of agreement among those actually in the field. Differences in opinion in the general population were strongly related to political affiliation:
The strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation. Two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say either that the earth is getting warmer mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere (43%) or that there is no solid evidence the earth is getting warmer (24%). By contrast, most Democrats (64%) say the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity. Nearly half of independents (49%) say human activity is causing the earth to warm, while 47% say either that the earth is getting warmer due to natural atmospheric changes (38%) or that there is no solid evidence that the earth is warming (9%).
The divide is even larger when party and ideology are both taken into consideration. Just 21% of conservative Republicans say the earth is warming due to human activity, compared with nearly three-quarters (74%) of liberal Democrats.
There also are significant differences in views about climate change by education. More than half of college graduates (58%) say climate change is occurring and caused by human activity while those with no more than a high school education are more divided in their opinions; 45% say the earth is warming because of human activity and 40% say it is due to natural changes in the atmosphere.
Scientists were more likely than the general public to be concerned about the suppression of scientific findings by the Bush administration:
Most scientists had heard at least a little about claims that government scientists were not allowed to report research findings that conflicted with the Bush administration’s point of view. And the vast majority (77%) says that these claims are true. By contrast, these claims barely registered with the public – more than half heard nothing at all about this issue. Only about a quarter of the public (28%) said they thought the claims were true.