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On climate change and other topics, conservatives have taken positions at odds with a strong scientific consensus. Claims that this indicates a broad conservative distrust of science have been countered by assertions that while conservatives might oppose the scientific consensus on climate change or evolution, liberals oppose scientists on some other domains such as vaccines. Evidence for disproportionately liberal bias against science on vaccines has been largely anecdotal, however. Here, we test this proposition of opposite biases using 2014 survey data from Oregon and New Hampshire. Across vaccine as well as climate change questions on each of these two surveys, we find that Democrats are most likely to say they trust scientists for information, and Tea Party supporters are least likely, contradicting the proposition of opposite bias. Moreover, partisan divisions tend to widen with education. Theoretical explanations that have been offered for liberal trust or conservative distrust of science in other specific domains such as climate change or environmental protection fit less well with these results on vaccines. Given the much different content of climate change and vaccine issues, the common political pattern appears more consistent with hypotheses of broader ideological divisions on acceptance of science.


Sociology; New Hampshire EPSCoR

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© The Author(s) 2015


Hamilton, L.C., J. Hartter & K. Saito. 2015. “Trust in scientists on climate change and vaccines.” Sage Open. © The Author(s) 2015. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

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