Fact Checkers Out There In The Factosphere Vs. Conservatism

We’ve mentioned a time or two around here that conservatism in the US has long since come untethered to any political or empirical moorings; it is rather a tribe, held together by shared dislike of outsiders. Here’s some information on that front, from an article by Chris Mooney:

[B]etter-educated Republicans were more skeptical of modern climate science than their less educated brethren. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans agreed that the planet is warming due to human actions, versus 31 percent of non-college-educated Republicans.

For Democrats and Independents, the opposite was the case. More education correlated with being more accepting of climate science—among Democrats, dramatically so. The difference in acceptance between more and less educated Democrats was 23 percentage points. …

Again and again, Republicans or conservatives who say they know more about the topic, or are more educated, are shown to be more in denial, and often more sure of themselves as well—and are confident they don’t need any more information on the issue. Tea Party members appear to be the worst of all. …

But it’s not just global warming where the “smart idiot” effect occurs. It also emerges on nonscientific but factually contested issues, like the claim that President Obama is a Muslim. Belief in this falsehood actually increased more among better-educated Republicans from 2009 to 2010 than it did among less-educated Republicans, according to research by George Washington University political scientist John Sides. …

So now the big question: Are liberals also “smart idiots”? …

Liberals, to quote George Lakoff, subscribe to a view that might be dubbed “Old Enlightenment reason.” They really do seem to like facts; it seems to be part of who they are. …

As members of the “egalitarian communitarian” group in the study—people with more liberal values–knew more science and math, they did not become more worried, overall, about the risks of nuclear power. Rather, they moved in the opposite direction from where these initial impulses would have taken them. They become less worried—and, I might add, closer to the opinion of the scientific community on the matter. …

Matt Steinglass has a smart point about the modern conservative mentality:

Mr Santorum’s social-conservative views, particularly those on sexuality, have been limned in recent weeks as “a return to the 1950s”. This is misleading. In the 1950s, Americans trusted their government, as they trusted most social institutions. Mr Santorum’s campaign, like that of all the other Republican presidential candidates, is predicated on a radical mistrust of government, along with the other authoritative institutions Americans used to trust in the 1950s: science, the courts, the medical profession, schools and academia, unions, and of course the media—pretty much everything apart from business, churches, and the military. This is a certain kind of conservatism, one that plays on Americans’ fears and divisions and exacerbates the decline of our social capital and mutual trust. It’s a far cry from the confident, high-trust conservatism of the Eisenhower-era Republican Party. But if it’s that resentful, suspicious kind of conservatism we’re talking about, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that America is by nature a fundamentally conservative country. At least I hope not.

Even Jeb Bush is apparently wondering what these folks are up to:

I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective, and that’s kind of where we are.

Post title comes from an old Colbert Report bit:

I support the death penalty because statistics prove it is an effective deterrent. Now I know some of you fact checkers out there in the factosphere will say that’s not the case and I’m just making things up. Well, guilty as charged. What are you gonna do? Execute Me? Oh wait! That’s not a deterrent! (Nailed ya!) Well, you keep your factual analysis, I know in my gut that the threat of lethal injection is the number one reason I haven’t murdered anyone yet. …

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