Is There a Bias Asymmetry Between Democrats and Republicans?

There’s a must read item today at the Huffington Post by Jonathan Weiler, co-author of the excellent book Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics. Weiler argues (as have I) that the “Republican war on science,” a term that I coined, is really just a subset of the “Republican war on reality.”

And not just that. Weiler further asserts that we’re seeing this right now because the Republican party is full of authoritarians—people who think they’re 100 percent right and everyone who disagrees with them is 100 percent wrong, and who have little tolerance for ambiguity or complexity.

All my research on ideology points to this conclusion as well—but I’m not sure Weiler fully articulates how authoritarians can be so factually wrong, and also sure of themselves and unable to admit correction.

To me, what seems to occur in authoritarian reasoning is that you firmly define in your mind an outgroup (liberals, environmentalists), and you then automatically take any claim that denigrates that outgroup (socialists, traitors) to be true. And then, if this claim is refuted, you’re outraged and you come to believe the false claim even more strongly than before. You double down. (This, of course, would explain why Tea Party climate deniers are so sure of themselves.)

And that’s not all. If you’re an authoritarian, you also probably leap to ideologically friendly conclusions to begin with. And when your ideological opponents are making an argument that’s characterized by a lot of nuance, you attack a caricatured, simplistic version of it.

Indeed, you probably find the making of nuanced arguments—and the expression of uncertainty—to be inherent signs of weakness. And you probably find people who constantly talk in nuanced ways, like President Obama or most university professors, to be suspicious, untrustworthy. Who do authoritarians trust? A strong leader who states it clearly, plainly, and toughly and doesn't waver.

If Weiler is right—and I think he is—then what this means is that we probably have a bias asymmetry in American politics. And that’s a really big deal.

Journalists, fact checkers, and so on go around acting as though there is a ‘pox on both their houses’—everybody has their own biases, everybody lies and distorts, so we need “balanced” journalism to handle this equally distributed nonsense. But Weiler suggests that this is not actually true. Rather, it should be the case that one group gets more things wrong, misrepresents and distorts more, and is less willing to admit to error or correction, or to change its mind.

Does that sound like modern American politics? Does that sound like the climate fight, or the healthcare fight, or arguments over economic policy?

It sure does to me…but don’t expect authoritarians to ever admit it!


John Dean’s book on authoritarian politicians intrigued me. I think he titled it “Conservatives without a Conscience. He was contrasting Goldwater era conservatives with the new authoritarians.

The following descriptors fit everyone, not just those on the right;

“you firmly define in your mind an outgroup (liberals, environmentalists), and you then automatically take any claim that denigrates that outgroup (socialists, traitors) to be true.

“you also probably leap to ideologically friendly conclusions to begin with.”

This one seems uniquely true of people with more conservative views;

“you probably find the making of nuanced arguments—and the expression of uncertainty—to be inherent signs of weakness.”

but it is inescapably true even of those on the left that if the nuance doesn’t agree with the leftist view, it’s rejected.

Not the same.  You cite individuals that you assume vote and identify as liberal.  Among conservatives you have presidential candidates outright being Anti-vax, creationists and other incorrect basic scientific ideas.

I really like this TED talk by Brene Brown about Vulnerability;

The ways of dealing with vulnerability stand out in my mind;

Cirtitude:  You make the uncertain, certain.

We Perfect: Make everything picture perfect.

We Pretend: We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people.

Climate Change?  Talk about feeling vulnerable.  Response.. Its certainly not us, its all natural, nothing to worry about, just go an about your lives.

There is a prof at the University of Manitoba who has devoted much of his career in social psychology research to the subject of authoritarianism, and in particular the psychology of the followers (though he also looks at the leaders.)

On his website you can download a free PDF of “The Authoritarians,” his book-length treatment of this topic. I highly recommend it. I read the whole document last year and found it quite enlightening. It’s also offered for sale in print via and as an audiobook.

He’s also posted two much shorter PDF documents that are particularly timely: a “Postscript on the 2008 Election” and “Comment on the Tea Party Movement” - again, recommended reading.

- Jim

This is great take on the Rob Ford incident on 22 minutes.  Particularly how Canada’s politicians no longer tolerate being ridiculed.

That is what we have been saying for years I think David.

If they were interested in the science, they for sure would not be so stuck on old theories about man made CO2 being the primary driver of Climate….

Now would they…?

David, right wingers here have clearly stated here before that it is actually a conspiracy. In their minds, that is what they are fighting. They don’t believe science is involved at all.


It’s similar in Canada. There’s a certainty in politics and religion that defies logic. Unfortunately that gets votes.

You have a very distorted view of science “RalphNader”. Science is never settled, which you would know if you had ever studied it. But evidence can overwhelm opinion. That’s what has happened in the study of climate.

Between 97% and 98% of publishing climatologists agree. If you disagree, publish in a reputable journal for us.

Read this: “Expert credibility in climate change”

Although preliminary estimates from published literature and expert surveys suggest striking agreement among climate scientists on the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC), the American public expresses substantial doubt about both the anthropogenic cause and the level of scientific agreement underpinning ACC.

A broad analysis of the climate scientist community itself, the distribution of credibility of dissenting researchers relative to agreeing researchers, and the level of agreement among top climate experts has not been conducted and would inform future ACC discussions.

Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that

  • (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field surveyed here support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and
  • (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.

More, PNAS, June 21, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107

So here’s what GWPF makes of the BEST results;

Now look at an analysis of it;

This is standard Skeptic technique.. show too little data, and claim it was all a hoax.  This is Standard Operating Procedure for skeptics.

GWPF’s results are either fraud or lunacy.  Neither of which should be presented as healthy examples for decision making.

For any skeptics out there with an actual mind, you must (reasonably) want to know where all that heat is going.  As predicted its going to the poles.

As you can see the ice is receding at a huge rate.  Here’s the raw data for you to see graphically.

Icegraph 1.03
Canadian Arctic
Plot Trendline
Generate Graphs

Historical Total Accumulated Ice Coverage 1971 - 2010, 0514 - 1015
Pick “Stage of Development”

Now… look at that graph…  In very simple terms, the ice has receded 16.6% from 1971.  Now… imagine how much heat that took.  Water stores a huge amount of heat.  We use it to cool nuclear reactors for that reason.

So.. There is plenty more evidence of this;  (Yup Skeptic Craig Loehle AND NASA agree the ocean has stopped rising due to thermal expansion.)

And here’s what Environment Canada has to say about the temperature in the arctic;

(Please don’t tell me that’s Urban Heat Island Effect…)

Rick James:  Answering ‘ZIP’ is hardly reasonable.  That whole chunk of discussion is blocked by the Skeptic DERP out there.  It is probably what we should have been discussing about 10 years ago.  But we’re not.  Its jammed, broken and disconnected.

For instance, how much will it cost to relocate our coastal cities? If Greenland melts, we’re looking at a catastrophe. Vancouver will be flooded.  Look how much hotter Greenland is.  You’re talking about relocating all coastal cities in the world. (Isn’t that like 60% of the world’s population?)

This means every country will have to deal with climate refugees within their own borders.  This will tear at the very heart of what it is to be a country.

Resources like water will become serious commodities to fight over.  We already have many disputes between Canada and the US over water rights.  Just wait till the US farm belt goes dry.

Lastly, food will become scarce.  Many countries are over populated already, but with climate change food exports will dwindle and you should see mass starvation.

So, which costs more?  Bllions dying famine, countries crumbling and war?  Or a heck of an economic kick in the pants to shift our carbon foot print?

Too bad no one has discussed this.  Actually… that’s not true.  The military are already studying the implications.  The Navy of course is especially interested.  I don’t know if you noticed but they build bases by the sea.

Yes - well my world view is based on the assumption that the large numbers of people in the developing world are struggling to get a piece of the pie. They want stuff and stuff increases your carbon footprint so…

Now I know the hope is to develop renewables to the point you can elevate the poor, but that seems out of reach for a long time.

I think you hit the biggest issue right there.  Demographics show that this is happening and in many cases, happened.  Much of the world now enjoys our technologies and lifestyle.  In short, we really aren’t ahead of anyone.

Hans Rosling does an excellent talk on the topic of demographics.  His other talks are great, and his desktop application does an excellent job on animating demographics.  i.e. you can graph life span versus carbon footprint…

Our job is to shepard this emerging world population into a low carbon foot print.  If we don’t they will trash the place for us.  If we don’t, they won’t listen to our complaints, so they’ll trash the place with our help.

Why did I receive a dozen almost identical replies to my comment? I’ve taken myself off the “Notify me when new comments are posted” list I hope.

Hmmmmmm.   Have you ever tried to calculate how long it would take to melt Greenland?  Even if you assumed that the temperatures were still rising, (they aren’t) it would take more than 10,000 years.  Do the math… it is quite simple.

Soooooo,   You are telling us we can not adapt to sea level rise over a 10,000 year span?

Oh yea„, the next ice age will have refrozen it all long before that anyway….. sooo…

OK I guess the greenland issue is not too relevent.

So how about water?   Ever heard about de-salination? Just another simple cost effective technology. 

But wait…. Global warming means more water vapor and more rain and more…….  nuts, another good scare down the drain.

But how about droughts…..  um… with the more rain there will be less water. er… something like that right?

So….    What is this AGW movement about? Since there is no real evidence that man made Co2 has any measurable effect on anything other than plant growth, Tell me again wht the trillions of dollars are being flushed for?

Or better yet, show us some of that conclusive science that is refered to so often but never displayed.


I’m curious to know how you calculated Greenland ICE Melt.  In 2007 the data available for the IPCC was so tentative that they did not include it in the ocean level estimates.  (Measurements still aren’t there.)

Please, share your paper with the rest of us.  Link?  Info?

Equally missing in the data is what happens when the permafrost melts.  Methane is already burbling up from that.

Now, if you do listen to your own arguements, you would be aware that not only is Australia being hit by its worst drought. They shut off food production in the affected region years ago.  They are now being hit by the worst floods.

So… no food and mass destruction.  Why else would they be discussing CO2 taxes?

I’m not sure where you got your facts from about man made CO2 not affecting anything.  Again, please share your paper with the rest of us.

So far, I see CO2 temperature predictions from 1991 steadily coming true.

Well now, I can’t fine the link I had to the most realistic projection, but here is one that is not too far off….

Hmmmm  Dought in australia….  WOW what a revelation.. That certainly has never happened before….LOL

Then floods… and again you claim CO2 as the cause for both… LOLOLOLOL.

Why Tax CO2???   Have you not been listening at all????

CO2 is the ONLY thing you can single out to control that will offer complete control over the economy and the masses…..   IT is simply a Socialists dream come true…

And boy I don’t know what reports you have been reading, must be Joe Romm or some other nutter, but the real world is most certainly not behaiving as the computer games said it should.

Not even close….  Like the 10 years + now of no warming. Even though the CO2 content is getting more and more benificial.

Keep you eye on the charts….. over the next 20 years, the temps will decline and the life giving CO2 content will rise past 550 on an ever increasing ramp to an optimum of 1000+. (which is normal for any house BTW)


Point taken about Greenland melting.  I can relax I guess.  (I hadn’t thought that through. But it will take a long time to ween us off Oil once we make the decision, and I think that has been factored into what most people are concerned about.)

I don’t read news too much.  I personally don’t like Greens.  I try to stick to real science and papers.  It takes me ages to get the gumption to trust a new source (like DESMOGBLOG).  I’m able to debunk most Skeptic sources without their database.

Furthermore all predictions I’m aware of show increased variability.  More heat in some spots, and drier in others.  So, yes… Drought and Flood go hand in hand.  (Read FAR.)

BEST shows this on the US temperature graphs.  Some areas get hotter some get cooler.  Overall hotter.  Hmm… Texas is getting cooler… And Drier.  Nifty.

Now, the part I do enjoy about you skeptics is statements like you last one.  You managed to apply a statement with absolutely no reasoning.  Where do you think the heat mysteriously went too?  The earth clearly got hot… clearly matched predicted trends.  Where is this current leveling cycle coming from?  I don’t doubt that we are in a local minimum.  (And I don’t doubt that we’ll find more on the way up.)

Its in the Ice melt.

Are you just refering correctly to the climate model predictions?  Specifically, we’re in a local minimum.

“out to control that will offer complete control over the economy and the masses…..   IT is simply a Socialists dream come true…”

Yet, you probably are A OK with the corporate welfare & tax payer bail outs of the private sector to the tune of a few trillion. No doubt you are reclining in your chair stifling a yawn at the continuing public sector funding  & bailouts world wide of the private sector in order to supposedly stave off another GFC. Now that is a true transfer of wealth. You ignore the hundreds of billions there & concentrate on a few million on AGW mitigation & are outraged?

Where was your outrage at GWB with the first $700B that he handed over to banks? If you are a free market idealist, then why are you not outraged at costs being socialized to pay for rail, roads, ports or oil spills?

Seems some forms of socialism you don’t mind at all.

I was not in favor of any of those bail outs.

I am not in favor of any subsidisation of industries, companies, or government handouts at all.

I am perticularily not in favour of subsidizing green jobs or green energy that is simply a bad investment either.

I don’t like waste. And I really really don’t like being lied to in a transparrent attempt to manipulate me into supporting really stupid movements like the AGW CO2 reduction idiocy.

Tell me the truth and back it up with VERIFIABLE evidence and facts and I will support it hands down.

Try to feed me BS about how the tiny little bit of CO2 humans put in the air is going to cause catastrophy and I will fight you to the end.

Simple.  Don’t lie to me if you want my cooperation.

“I am not in favor of any subsidisation of industries, companies, or government handouts at all.”

Great! I agree, lets end fossil fuel subsidies & handouts. Direct some to renewables for a few decades to at least even things up a little. After all, fossil fuels have had a nice tax payer funded head start. Then we can start on a free market footing in regards to our energy.

Tell me the truth and back it up with VERIFIABLE evidence and facts and I will support it hands down.”

Ahahaha, nice one. A sense of humour.

Bush and his Republican bailout welfare money?  (Its called TARP. Look it up.)

Oh, and in Canada, its was the Liberals who regulated our banks.  You guys got bankrupted.. We didn’t.

Anyways, in Canada we spends lots of money subsidising oil and gas.  We bow to their every whim, and then some.  We have a whole diplomatic core devoted to promoting it.  That’s expensive stuff you just can’t buy.

“Oh, and in Canada, its was the Liberals who regulated our banks.  You guys got bankrupted.. We didn’t.”

The same was true for here in Australia. Banking & financial industries are heavily regulated. People whinged about regulation & red tape until they see that it saved their arse.

It’s funny to hear people from the U.S indoctrinated by free market & libertarian spin, parrot things like “we are over regulated!” or “too much red tape!”.

You want the financial sector to be able to get away with even more? Then when they, as a private enterprise, fail, use tax payers money to bail them out?

I can understand it in one respect from a governments point of view in that, if they did let all these banks fail, then millions of innocent mums, dads & retirees would lose their life savings. I know it cost me $12k & I am on the other side of the world.

But where is the accountability? Where is the insurance? If these companies are going to leverage so much, then like your average home owner or investor, you/they should be able to prove you/they can cover the costs of failure. Instead, without regulation, they were allowed to leverage well beyond their means of repayment & the checks on their leveraged assets were not worth a pinch of dog shit.

It’s no wonder that people like the Koch’s try to rally easily duped people into accepting Libertarian beliefs. When you are in a position of strength, free markets with no reulation is what you want. So you can create a monopoly, undercut the start ups & con people they are getting great value……….& they have won freedom & liberty!


A once stand up kinda place, OZ is now run by a left wing nut bar set on ruining the economy of the whole contenent.

Austrailia now joins the UK in economic suiside by echo Tax.

Unfortunatly, the next election will not come soon enough to save you from those idiots.

Your economy will be in ruins by the time you are able to toss them out.

Sad.  Australia used to be such a strong sensible country.