Haglin, Kathryn M (2018-08). The Political Determinants of Attitudes Towards Science. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • In the contemporary United States, politics often seems to dominate the conversation surrounding scientific topics and related technologies. At a time rich in scientific discoveries, the public is more interested than ever in what science holds for the future and the impact of constantly evolving technology. Yet we also live in times of high political polarization, leading to an almost inevitable stream of political debate over scientific discoveries, their applications, and subsequent policy change. Science, in working to establish "facts" and known truths about the world, inherently intersects and often collides with individuals' values by enabling and limiting different ideas of what is possible. When this happens, those with strong convictions have an incentive to try to affect the path of scientific research or have biased reactions to scientific findings. When scientific evidence is rejected based on political values, political polarization on science and scientific beliefs results. This in turn threatens the application of these scientific findings, since the public is able to punish politicians who fail to follow the path they prefer at the ballot box. Given these dynamics, there is much to be learned about the politicization of science, individuals' policy views, and the public's relationship with the communication and interpretation of scientific findings. Work on this topic has thus far focused on two major areas: first, citizens' beliefs and attitudes about science and science-related public policy, and second, the communication of scientific findings and how those findings are interpreted. This dissertation seeks to build on both of these bodies of work by examining attitudes among members of the mass public towards science over time, comparing political mechanisms for changes in these attitudes, and experimentally testing the role of politics in the formation of science attitudes and information interpretation. information interpretation.
  • In the contemporary United States, politics often seems to dominate the conversation surrounding
    scientific topics and related technologies. At a time rich in scientific discoveries, the public is
    more interested than ever in what science holds for the future and the impact of constantly evolving
    technology. Yet we also live in times of high political polarization, leading to an almost inevitable
    stream of political debate over scientific discoveries, their applications, and subsequent policy
    change. Science, in working to establish "facts" and known truths about the world, inherently intersects
    and often collides with individuals' values by enabling and limiting different ideas of what
    is possible. When this happens, those with strong convictions have an incentive to try to affect the
    path of scientific research or have biased reactions to scientific findings. When scientific evidence
    is rejected based on political values, political polarization on science and scientific beliefs results.
    This in turn threatens the application of these scientific findings, since the public is able to punish
    politicians who fail to follow the path they prefer at the ballot box. Given these dynamics, there is
    much to be learned about the politicization of science, individuals' policy views, and the public's
    relationship with the communication and interpretation of scientific findings. Work on this topic
    has thus far focused on two major areas: first, citizens' beliefs and attitudes about science and
    science-related public policy, and second, the communication of scientific findings and how those
    findings are interpreted. This dissertation seeks to build on both of these bodies of work by examining
    attitudes among members of the mass public towards science over time, comparing political
    mechanisms for changes in these attitudes, and experimentally testing the role of politics in the
    formation of science attitudes and information interpretation. information interpretation.

publication date

  • August 2018