polarization

Mon, 2012-04-30 08:35Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Let’s Just Say It: When It Comes to Science, The Right is the Problem

This weekend in The Washington Post, two deans of the Washington establishment, the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann and the American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein, finally stated what has been increasingly obvious: The problem with U.S. politics is coming from the right, not from “both sides.” In their piece, provocatively titled “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are The Problem,” they note that Republicans and conservatives have become extreme and unwilling to compromise. And as they stress, this is not something the Democrats or liberals are “just as bad” at.

Hence, the whole approach of the mainstream or centrist media is myopic or, worse, complicit. “A balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality,” write Mann and Ornstein.

Mann and Ornstein make allusion in their piece to the fact that conservatives have simultaneously become extremely anti science (witness climate change) and anti empirical. And indeed, when it comes to eschewing phony media balance, well, that’s something we science journalists have been recommending for a decade. In this, we’ve been way, way ahead of the game. We’ve had to be.

Mann’s and Ornstein’s piece is very important and a breath of fresh air; yet in truth, their approach is probably still too centrist. The problem is that their analysis is purely sociological and historical in nature—in some cases blaming Republican extremism on the actions of a few individuals, like Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist–rather than psychological.

Consider, for instance, some important new data (pictured here, click link to enlarge), cited by Mann and Ornstein, showing that House and Senate Republicans have become much more ideological over the past 30 years, whereas Democrats and liberals have not. That’s true and revealing, but why is it occurring?

Wed, 2011-04-20 07:28Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

The Ever Growing Partisan Divide Over Global Warming

Depressing doesn’t even begin to capture it.

On the one hand, scientists have become increasingly certain that climate change is real and human caused. They’re now saying “very likely,” a degree of certainty equivalent to greater than 90 percent.

Yet at the same time, the two U.S. political parties have grown increasingly polarized over whether to accept this fact about the world. There’s now a 30 percent gap between Democrats and Republicans in their likelihood of believing the above to be true. This gap has widened, even as scientific doubt has narrowed.

That’s the finding of a comprehensive new study (press release here) on our polarization over climate change by Aaron McCright of Michigan State and Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State. They looked at 10 years of Gallup polling on the issue, and found a steady march in opposite directions for the two parties. Or as the authors put it: “Moving from the right to the left along the political spectrum increases respondents’ likelihood of reporting beliefs consistent with the scientific consensus and of expressing personal concern about global warming.” That’s academic speak, so they didn’t add on the following next sentence, as I would have done: “A lot.”

 But that’s not the only thing McCright and Dunlap looked at.

Subscribe to polarization