The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A scientific perspective on politics and science

Science skepticism appears to be rampant. But how pervasive is it? Are both conservatives and liberals susceptible? What factors contribute to it and mitigate it?

These are some of the questions that spurred my colleague Jamie Druckman and me to bring together dozens of scholars in “The Politics of Science,” the March issue of the ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. This issue explores how politics influences the communication of scientific knowledge, its reception by the public, and the beliefs of science teachers and even scientists themselves.

The Monkey Cage will run posts over the coming week from a number of the contributors. Each post will be linked to an ungated version of the original article, compliments of Sage Publications.

In our introduction, Druckman and I argue that people’s political values color their views on science because science has profound political implications, alerting us to problems that may require a governmental response and suggesting what types of collective action are or are not likely to work. For those with strong political opinions, a lot is at stake.

We also discuss when we should be concerned about politics intruding into the scientific process. This intrusion isn’t always problematic. For example, it is reasonable to take citizens’ priorities into account when deciding how to allocate federal funding earmarked for scientific research.

At the same time, the intrusion of politics into science is often very troubling. It inhibits our ability to see the world clearly and makes us less likely to reach across the political aisle to solve problems that threaten us all.

Stay tuned for this week’s posts.

Elizabeth Suhay is an assistant professor of government in the School of Public Affairs at American University. She specializes in the study of public opinion, political communication and public understanding of science.