The American Sociologist

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 135–148 | Cite as

Does Activism in Social Science Explain Conservatives’ Distrust of Scientists?

  • Nathan CofnasEmail author
  • Noah Carl
  • Michael A. Woodley of Menie


Data from the General Social Survey suggest that conservatives have become less trustful of scientists since the 1970s. Gauchat argues that this is because conservatives increasingly see scientific findings as threatening to their worldview. However, the General Social Survey data concern trust in scientists, not in science. We suggest that conservatives’ diminishing trust in scientists reflects the fact that scientists in certain fields, particularly social science, have increasingly adopted a liberal-activist stance, seeking to influence public policy in a liberal direction.


Public understanding of science Politics and science Trust in science Conservatism Political polarization 



Thanks to Lawrence Nichols and Neven Sesardić for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan Cofnas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Noah Carl
    • 2
  • Michael A. Woodley of Menie
    • 3
  1. 1.Balliol CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Nuffield CollegeOxfordUK
  3. 3.Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary StudiesVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselBelgium

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