Expert Available to Discuss Distrust of Scientists Based on Ideology

DURHAM, N.H. – As President Trump signs an executive order initiating a review of the Clean Power Plan, potentially reversing progress made by the Obama administration and supported by many scientists and governments around the world, the environmental divide between U.S. conservatives and liberals seems to grow. Ongoing research by Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, explores what the general public knows and believes about the environment, climate change, and science. These perceptions often prove related to education, but they are profoundly shaped by political orientation as well. “Many people now are inclined toward distrust of scientists, and outright rejection of scientific findings that contradict their political beliefs,” said Hamilton. “We’ve surveyed people about a range of topics from climate change, to evolution, vaccines, genetically modified foods, and most recently, the Zika virus. Across all of those topics we see a common ideological pattern. Conservatives express less trust in scientists.” Hamilton says that long before the recent discussion of “alternative facts”, people developed set views based on their ideology, even for straightforward physical facts such as whether the Arctic sea ice is melting. “Our research has shown that ideology whispers in people’s ears,” said Hamilton. “For some people, ideology has a dominant effect on how they answer survey questions, not just what they believe but who they will listen to, and how certain they feel about their knowledge.” Hamilton can be reached directly at [email protected] or (603) 862-1859. Video of Larry Hamilton speaking about climate change and ideology: