May 19, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 34 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Democrats habitually congratulate themselves on being the brainy party. They’re rational and rely on empirical evidence for their views. Or so they insist. And they strongly believe in science and are quick to accuse Republicans of being antiscience—that is, dopey and inclined to fall for pseudoscientific notions like astrology. Indeed, some supposedly scientific researchers regard belief in astrology as a measure of how conservative you are.
So researchers and Democrats and liberals are in for a humiliating jolt. It turns out that Republicans and conservatives are more likely than Democrats and liberals to regard astrology—the idea that the arrangement of the stars governs human affairs—as “not at all scientific.” And this finding is empirical—based on surveys by the National Opinion Research Center and a review of public attitudes by the National Science Foundation! The cumulative polling evidence was put together by James Lindgren, the director of the Demography of Diversity Project at Northwestern University.
Sixty-six percent of Republicans dismiss astrology as nonscientific compared with 49 percent of Democrats. The gap is nearly as wide between liberal Democrats (57 percent) and conservative Republicans (70 percent). And on the question of whether the earth revolves around the sun and takes a year to do so, Democrats also fare poorly. When asked about this, 49 percent of Democrats answered correctly. Sixty-two percent of Republicans got it right.
For those who might be in doubt, there is no scientific evidence to support astrology. Yet, Lindgren wrote in a paper, “believers in astrology are not the only ones who hold beliefs for which there is no good evidence. Many political psychology researchers share the view that a belief in astrology is one of the things that defines how conservative you are.” They’re wrong. Lindgren’s conclusion: “The relationship between science and politics is much more complex than the one-sided approach reported by most social scientists and journalists.” That’s putting it mildly.
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