09 July 2009

Only 6% of Scientists Self-Identify as Republicans

Thanks to Matt Nisbet for pointing me to a new Pew Report on opinions about and of scientists. He has a nice overview of broader take home messages here. In taking a quick look at the report I was surprised to see that only 6% of scientists identify themselves as Republicans, see below. It puts an interesting twist on the conflicts between the Bush Administration and the scientific community. For more on the partisan proclivities of the scientific community see Dan Sarewitz's excellent recent piece on "The Rightful Place of Science" (PDF).


  1. I bet the results are very different for engineers

  2. I actually bet they are pretty similar for engineers. Another interesting facet of this poll is the large number of independents. Want to bet a large number of those independents lie somewhere in the libertarian sphere ?

    I suspect that there are a large number of technically minded folk that are not fond of either the authoritarian attitudes of the progressives nor the vapid mindset of the current Republican brand.

  3. That's very interesting, although using the Thomas Sowell "Conflict of Visions" classifications, it might have been expected. The "Unconstrained" (liberals) believe that a smart person's opinion is better than the opinion of the masses. The "Constrained" viewpoint (conservatives) believe that just because one is an expert in one field, that doesn't give their opinion any more weight in other fields. I would think that most scientists are convinced that they are smarter than the masses (and they are, of course) and that therefore they should be in charge (as generally liberal point of view).

  4. Not surprising. Democrats and Independents think. Republicans dogmatize and dichotomize, which doesn't cut it in science. Or perhaps more accurately, Republicans often give their values priority over external evidence, and don't know they're doing so.

  5. So Jim ... by your reasoning, I take it that you're a Republican?

  6. The same poll shows a similar disparity on nuclear power and testing of drugs on animals. Although I didn't see it in the Pew poll, I have seen in the past that most scientists are in favor of genetically modified crops---more so than the general public.

    Would Jim Bouldin care to do a socio-political psychoanalysis on how the two parties might line up on those three issues?

  7. Mr. Bouldin comment is ridiculous at best. I know more people; engineers and scientists in the semiconductor AND solar industries, who are actually Republican or leaning towards Republican issues. This is not a statistical sampling, just a fact. None of these people are what he says.

    He is being foolish, and obviously not a technical person.

    One thing I can state, and I am sure that everyone here who has studied the laws of physics will admit: science is conservative, the laws are set in stone and cannot be changed.

    Where I see this mistake so often, is in the energy and climate debates. A vast majority of people do not, or it seems they do not, understand the laws of thermodynamics.

    BTW, I noticed this site from Watt's site.

  8. "I actually bet they are pretty similar for engineers. "
    It's different for engineers and here's why: How many of these scientists are actually GOVERNMENT WORKERS? That is, they are in AAAS, according to the poll selection. What percent of them work in either Govt research facility or in public University or academia in general? I'd think most of them, which is why 'Govt funding' is the "top issue" of concern to them.

    Those in such employ, and that generally includes college professors as a whole, have adopted Government worker assumptions and mindsets. Academia is these days a 'hostile work environment' for conservatives. It is not surprising then that many who work there would adopt a 'independent' label just to avoid the hassles and/or gradually adopt the 'GOVT WORKER' mindset ("more Govt funding needed please!").

    And in some cases (like mine) the conservatives self-select to go into private sector and become engineers or something else.

    Thus, it would be MORE interesting to have a poll that segregated those with advanced degrees based on what their job is: Private sector or academic/public sector.