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Only Six Percent Of Scientists Are Republicans: Pew Poll

First Posted: 08/10/2009 6:12 am EDT Updated: 02/12/2013 11:43 am EST

A new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the GOP is alienating scientists to a startling degree.

Only six percent of America's scientists identify themselves as Republicans; fifty-five percent call themselves Democrats. By comparison, 23 percent of the overall public considers itself Republican, while 35 percent say they're Democrats.

The ideological discrepancies were similar. Nine percent of scientists said they were "conservative" while 52 percent described themselves as "liberal," and 14 percent "very liberal." The corresponding figures for the general public were 37, 20 and 5 percent.

Among the general public, moderates and independents ranked higher than any party or ideology. But among scientists, there were considerably more Democrats (55%) than independents (32%) and Republicans (6%) put together. There were also more liberals (52%) than moderates (35%) and conservatives (9%) combined.

"These results were not a complete surprise," said Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research at Pew, in an interview with the Huffington Post. He said they can be mostly attributed to "the difference between Democratic and Republican parties with respect to issues."

The wide ideological and partisan gap among scientists may have been exacerbated by the Bush administration, which often disputed broad scientific consensus on topics such as evolution and climate change.

Keeter acknowledged this factor, but said that "many of these disputes probably predate the Bush administration," noting that scientists have favored liberal views in numerous past studies.

Religion also plays a role. Republicans tend to promote the centrality of religion more often than Democrats, and while 95 percent of the public said they believe in "God" or "a higher power," only 51 percent of scientists claimed either.

"Many Republicans, especially the Evangelical wing of the party, are skeptical of evolution, and have argued for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in school," said Keeter.

The results could merely be a reflection of how scientists see the world, rather than of partisan loyalties. In a series of questions posed, the study found that the answers of scientists were consistently more in line with liberal viewpoints than those of the general public.

"The Republican Party has a number of leaders within it who have challenged the accuracy of scientific findings on issues such as climate change, evolution and stem cell research," Keeter told the Huffington Post.

"It suggests that scientists who are Republicans might feel some dissonance from the party's position on some things that are important to them. And while there are Republicans in the scientist sample, there are really not that many," he said.

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