Why is concern about global warming so politically polarized?

As a climate scientist, I often hear it bemoaned that the public discussion of human-caused global warming is so politically polarized (Pew Research, 2019). The argument goes that global warming is simply a matter of pure science and thus there should be no divisions of opinion along political lines. Since it tends to be the political Right that opposes policies designed to address global warming, the reason for the political division is often placed solely on the ideological stubbornness of the Right.

This is a common theme in research on political divides regarding scientific questions. These divides are often studied from the perspective of researchers on the Left who, rather self-servingly, frame the research question as something like “Our side came to it’s conclusions from pure reason, so what exactly makes the people who disagree with us so biased and ideologically motivated?” I would put works like The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science — and Reality in this category.

Works like The Republican Brain correctly point out that those most dismissive of global warming tend to be on the Right, but they incorrectly assume that the Left’s position is therefore informed by dispassionate logic. If the Left was motivated by pure reason then the Left would not be just as likely as the Right to deny science on the safety of vaccines and genetically modified foods. Additionally, as Mooney has argued elsewhere, the Left is more eager than the Right to deny mainstream science when it doesn’t support a blank-slate view of human nature. This suggests that fidelity to science and logic are not what motivates the Left’s concern about global warming.

Rather than thinking of the political divide on global warming as being the result of logic vs. dogma, a much better explanation is that people tend to accept conclusions, be they scientific or otherwise, that support themes, ideologies, and narratives that are a preexisting component of their worldview (e.g., Washburn and Skitka, 2017). It just so happens that the themes, ideologies, and narratives associated with human-caused global warming and its proposed solutions align well with archetypal worldviews of the Left and create great tension with archetypal worldviews of the Right.

The definitional distinction between the political Right and the political Left originates from the French Revolution and is most fundamentally about the desirability and perceived validity of social hierarchies. Definitionally, those on the Right see hierarchies as natural, meritocratic and justified while those on the Left see hierarchies more as a product of luck and exploitation. A secondary distinction, at least contemporarily in the West, is that those on the Right tend to emphasize individualism at the expense of collectivism and those on the Left prefer the reverse.

There are several aspects of the contemporary human-caused global warming narrative that align well with an anti-hierarchy, collectivist worldview. This makes the issue gratifying to the sensibilities of the Left and offending to the sensibilities of the Right.

The most fundamental of these themes is the degree to which humanity itself can be placed at the top of the hierarchy of life on the planet. Those on the Right would be more likely to articulate that it is justified to privilege the interests of humanity over the interests of other species or the “interests” of the planet as a whole (to the degree that there is such a thing). On the other hand, those on the Left would be more likely to emphasize across-species egalitarianism and advocate for reduced impact on the environment, even if it is against the interest of humans.

Within humanity, there are also at least two levels for which narratives about hierarchies influence thinking on global warming. One is the issue of developed vs. developing countries. The blame for global warming falls disproportionately on developed countries (in terms of historical greenhouse gas emissions) and thus proposed solutions often call on developed countries to bear the brunt of the cost of reducing emissions going forward. (Additionally, it is argued that developed countries have the luxury of being able to afford the associated increases in the cost of energy.) Overall, the solutions proposed for global warming imply that wealthy countries owe a debt to the rest of humanity that should come due sooner rather than later.

Those on the Right are more likely to see the wealth of developed countries as being rightfully earned through their own industriousness while those on the Left are more likely to view the disproportionate wealth of different countries as being fundamentally unjust and likely originating from exploitation. Thus, the story that wealthy countries are to blame for the global warming problem and that the solution is to penalize wealthy countries and subsidize poor countries is one that aligns well with preexisting narratives on the Left but not those on the Right. An accentuating factor is the tendency of the Right to be more in favor of national autonomy and thus opposed to global governance and especially international redistribution.

The third level for which hierarchy narratives couple with political divides on global warming relates to the wealth of corporations and individuals. On the Right, the story of oil and gas companies (as well as electric utilities that utilize fossil fuels) is one of innovation and wealth creation: The smartest and most deserving people and organizations found the most efficient ways to transform idle fossil fuel resources into the power that runs society and greatly enhances human wellbeing. Under such a narrative, it is fundamentally unjust to point a finger of blame at those entities (both corporations and individuals) that have done so much for human progress. The counter-narrative from the Left is that greedy corporations and individuals exploited natural resources for their own gain at the expense of the planet and the general public. Under this narrative, policies that blame and punish those in the fossil fuel industry are seen as bringing about a cosmic justice that is necessary for them to atone for their sins.

The other major overlapping theme that defines the divide between the Left and the Right on global warming is the degree to which collectivism is emphasized compared to individualism. Global warming is fundamentally a tragedy of the commons problem in which logical agents act in such a way that ends up being in the worst interest for everyone in the long term. These types of ‘collective-action problems’ almost necessarily call for top-down government intervention and thus they are inevitably associated with collectivism at the expense of individualism. Also, global warming’s long term nature calls for the embracement of collectivism across generations. Again, this natural alignment of the global warming problem with collectivist themes makes the issue much more palatable for the Left than for the Right.

In addition to these fundamental ideological issues, there are a number of more circumstantial characteristics that’s I believe have contributed to polarization regarding global warming.

One is that, in the U.S. at least, Al Gore was the primary actor that brought global warming into the national consciousness. If one wanted the issue to be “non-political” one couldn’t have conceived of a worse person than a former vice president and presidential nominee to be the main flagbearer for the movement.

Also, there is the longstanding claim by those on the Right that the global warming issue is just a Trojan Horse intended as an excuse to bring about all the desired policies of the Left. Books like This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and plans like the Green New Deal do little to dispel this narrative. For example, the Green New Deal Resolution contained the following proposals:

“Providing all people of the United States with— (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”

“Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”

“Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so those communities may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization”.

These are objectives that clearly satisfy goals of the Left but it is much less clear how directly related these objectives are to global warming.

So, it should really not be particularly mysterious that opinions on global warming tend to divide along political lines. It is not because one side embraces pure reason while the other remains obstinately wedded to political dogmatism. It is simply that the problem and its proposed solutions align more comfortably with the dogma of one side than the other. That does not mean, however, that the Left is equally out-of-step with the science of global warming as the Right. It really is the case that the Right is more likely to deny the most well-established aspects of the science. But, if skeptical conservatives are to be convinced, the Left must learn to reframe the issue in a way that is more palatable to their worldview.

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27 Responses to Why is concern about global warming so politically polarized?

  1. Harry Saunders says:

    Right on the money, Patrick. Very insightful new framing.

  2. rogercaiazza says:

    On July 18 Governor Cuomo signed the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protecton Act and Al Gore was on the podium. Sort of poking the eyes of anyone who thinks that a policy that has not been scoped out first should not legislate goals until they know how much and how achievable.

  3. Joshua says:

    > “It just so happens that the themes, ideologies, and narratives associated with human-caused global warming and its proposed solutions align well with archetypal worldviews of the Left and create great tension with archetypal worldviews of the Right.”

    I don’t think this is a particularly robust construction – and more than likely takes shape to conform to a preconception.

    I would suggest you have the causality backwards.

    People attach, largely at an emotional level, to a partisan lens on climate change and then work to align their attachment with ideological principles. There is nothing inherently ideological about the implications or facts of climate change. For example, it is entirely “conservative” to be reluctant to trade off long-term health for the short term benefits of exploiting fossil fuels for energy.

    • Joshua says:

      Your construction portrays the left/right divide on climate change as if it is an inevitable and logical function of the underlying facts and sociological and political implications of the GHE. This is dubious, IMO. One piece of evidence that might suggest a problem with your theorizing is that over time, as we can see, mainstream Republicans have moved (at least relatively speaking) from largely accepting the consensus view on climate change (they once ran a candidate for president who had worked on crafting climate legislation) to rejecting that consensus view (running a candidate who considers the theory of the GHE as a Chinese hoax).

      The basic facts of climate change and the implications of climate change haven’t changed over time. What has changed is the manner in which people have moved over time in how they view those phenomena. Now that could happen if you think that people have moved in their orientation. For example, perhaps conservatives have become more conservative over time, and so their view on those facts have change in a parallel fashion. That seems rather unlikely. What is more unlikely is that people have remained more or less in the same place ideologically, but they have are applying a more partisan filter as they consider those facts and implications.

      • Joshua says:

        Another aspect of the question at hand, which is problematic for your theory, is that in some countries the partisan divide on climate change, the extent to which views differ in association with political or ideological orientation, are much less manifest than in the US.

        If indeed, there were some natural function, some inherent or endemic mechanism that shifts views on climate change in alignment with political identity, then we could expect the relationship to be consistent across nationality.

        Instead, I would suggest relative to your statement here:

        > “It is simply that the problem and its proposed solutions align more comfortably with the dogma of one side than the other.”

        … that the mechanism of causality is certainly not that “simple.”

        Even if there were some kind of natural taxonomy, by which some of the facts and implications about climate change, or even some elements of the proposed solutions,” inevitably scale up to align logically within some kind of fixed constellation of political orientation, there would certainly, IMO, be a multifactorial causality involved in why there is such a partisan divide (at least in the US). Even if some the partisanship reflected, as you suggest, a kind of natural law that is a direct function of how climate change orients wihtin a political constellation, there are certainly other factors which contribute to the polarized nature of climate change policy development in the US. Perhaps there is some truth to the mechanism you propose (I have my doubts), but there are clearly other factors in play as well, and I’d say it is questionable as to just how explanatory the various factors are relative to each other.

  4. Joshua says:

    > …those on the Right tend to emphasize individualism at the expense of collectivism and those on the Left prefer the reverse.

    and

    >These types of ‘collective-action problems’ almost necessarily call for top-down government intervention and thus they are inevitably associated with collectivism at the expense of individualism.

    As one example, this is a questionable view of how the implications of climate change, or even proposed policies to address climate change, overlays onto some preexisting political constellation of views.

    For example, “the right,” when looked at as a coherent group (which it is only to some degree), are sometimes less “individualistic” in their orientation towards climate-related policies. One example might be with respect to “the”right’s” acceptance of (in the US) top down government support and subsidization of fossil fuels and the energy industry,

    Of course, there are many examples in other political domains where “the right” supports “top down” government intervention to address problems. There is a filtering and biasing mechanism by which people interpret, what is or isn’t “top down” within certain contexts, or accept or reject a top down approach in some situations but no others. I’m not suggesting that these types of biasing lenses in how people integrate an ideological landscape with their views on particular issues is predominantly characteristic of “the right” in contrast to “the left.” I’m quite sure that these biasing mechanisms are quite bi-partisan. They are innately part of human reasoning.

    But I am saying that your argument on the mechanism of polarization on climate change is too simplistic. IMO, It effectively ignores (or at least significantly underestimates) various psychological and cognitive factors that play into how people interpret information and evidence so as to orient their views within a political constellation.

    • Joshua says:

      OK. One more comment to help illustrate my point, and then I’ll leave you alone.

      Consider whether or not it was inevitable that on Bush v. Gore, the various Supreme Court justices would rule as they did on a states’ rights case, given how their ideological preferences traditionally overlaid onto the ideological constellation you describe.

      Or consider whether it was inevitable that conservatives who supported the “personal responsibility” principles of Romneycare would come to view the individual mandate of Obamacare as the height of tyranny and government overreach. How does a de-contextualized constellation of collectivism vs. individualism explain where conservatives wound up seeing those two healthcare policies, respectively?

      I suggest that these mechanisms are not such that it is “simply” that the “problems and their proposed solutions align more comfortably with the dogma of one side than the other.”

      If I am correct about that, then why would it be different for climate change than for those issues?

      • Joshua says:

        OK – I lied. At the risk of seeming like a lunatic, I’ll add another comment (I keep thinking about this when I walk away and thinking of something else I want to say, and want to write it out Sorry for cluttering up your blog).

        Consider that two groups, each largely identified by coalescing around more or less diametrically opposed spots on the left-right political spectrum (let’s say Alex Jones’s audience and new agers in Sedona, Arizona), respectively, wind up converging on the belief that members of the public and private sectors are conspiring to deceive the public about the public health impact of GMOs and vaccines. What would explain how the political implications of those issues wouldn’t manifest as *opposing* views on those issues for those respective groups, as they do for climate change, if orientation along the left-right politics spectrum was what explains how people view these issues? Is there some categorical difference about the issue of climate change that differentiates it from those other issues?

        I would offer another proposal for an, at least partially, explanatory mechanism.

        Back when views on climate change were less lockstep in line with political orientation, on one side people such as Gore sought to exploit political identity to advance policies towards providing a solution to the problem on climate change (and their own political capital/influence). This played a non-insignificant role in catalyzing a feedback loop where political identity (as opposed to ideological view – they aren’t necessarily one and the same) “motivated” a view on climate change.

        In fact, I would say that many people who are quite firm in their views of climate change are largely ignorant of the actual implications of proposed solutions (just as they are largely ignorant of the actual scientific evidence on climate change).

        And political operatives on the other side of the ideological divide, such as Frank Luntz, sought to likewise exploit political identity so as to de-motivate support for policies that targeted solutions for climate change. Maybe in part they did that simply because creating a stronger group identity, particularly in opposition to an “other” political identity, was a means to increase political leverage. Maybe in part they did so because of strategic and financial interest alignments between those political operatives and powerful players in the energy industry who had a financial stake in de-motivating such support.

        This would set off a different mechanistic change than the one you described above. The mechanistic process would be:

        association with political identity ===>> drives interpretation of the political implications of climate change and proposed solutions

        as opposed to

        interpretations of the political implications of climate change and proposed solutions ====>> drives reactions to those implications and solutions ===>> drives political alignment on climate change as an issue

        or

        orientation along the left-right political continuum ====>> explains reactions to the intrinsic qualities of possible solutions to the problems posed by climate change.

        OK. I really will stop now!

      • ptbrown31 says:

        Hi Joshua,

        Thanks a lot for taking the time to engage with my arguments. I won’t have time for a while but I plan on eventually getting back to you with a substantive response.

      • Joshua says:

        Hi Patrick –

        Thanks. Take your time.

    • dpy6629 says:

      Joshua, Do you really expect anyone to read your opaque comments. Patrick I think hits the nail on the head. There are strong ideological bases for attitudes toward global warming and particularly toward proposed solutions.

      Your point about decreasing acceptance of the CAGW narrative among Republicans is not really true. There are still plenty of moderate and liberal Republicans who accept it. They are just not very prominent in the current Republican party. I suspect most Republicans don’t have very much information about the science but are increasingly cynical about the growing chorus of “the end is near” stories in the media. The media has really returned to the 19th Century when rank and nasty partisanship and sensationalism were the order of the day. The partisan divide we currently have is also reminiscent of the 19th Century. That era was also dominated by pseudo-science such as social Darwinism and eugenics both of which were very popular with progressives. Woodrow Wilson was a great example of how the worst of these bad ideas came to power.

      • Joshua says:

        David –

        I love that you suggest no one would read my comments, in a comment in reply to what I wrote in my comments. Love it.

        > Your point about decreasing acceptance of the CAGW narrative among Republicans is not really true.

        A drop of close to 40% in “concern” from 01-04, and of 20% from 01-13.

        Would that be explained by a 40% or 20% shift in the political implications of proposed solutions to omate change – as Patrick’s theory suggests? I suspect not

        The mechanics and dynamics of public opinion on climate change are complex – affected by tribalism, and short-term weather patterns, and even the state of the economy. People don’t simple reason through the issues in a straight line as a logical extension of their ideological starting point.there are many biasing factors.

        This is no different than the dynamic of how evangelicals did a 180 about the importance of politicians’ personal behaviors after Trump starting running for office. Or how Pubz and Demz switched orientation in their concerns about the threat posed by Putin and Russia. There are and endless list of such examples.

        People filter their views on the ideological implications of issues based on tribal affiliations, be it climate change or other similarly polarized issues.

        There is a ton of literature in this regard, none of which is referenced by Patrick’s theory and post. I could be wrong in my view on the topic, but he should at least give a detailed argument as to why all that literature is wrong.

        The chances of a “simple” dynamic and mechanism, as he describes, are exceedingly small, IMO.

      • dpy6629 says:

        I looked up the 2017 and 2018 Gallup numbers and used your graph. There is little trend over the record if you take into account margins of error. The data just doesn’t support your assertions about large changes over time. Gallup asked a whole series of questions on climate which show Republican attitudes are nuanced. You should avoid cherry picking

      • Joshua says:

        David –

        Of course the data are likely to show methodological signals over time, but I’d say that there is enough acceptable variance to still see that opinions controlled for political identity go up and down over time – they don’t stay the same as if they are simply a function of where some abstracted notion of the implications of policy proposals would fit on some abstracted constellation of ideological world views.

        There is some pretty solid data, for example, that show a signal above the noise from the impact of the state of the economy on viewpoints on environmental issues. And there are data that show more localized swings in concerns over climate change based on localized relatively short-term weather phenomena.

        And yes, of course the data goes both up and down. That’s part of my point. Opinions aren’t formed independently of “external forcing,” and aren’t simply a function of “internal forcing,” if you will. There are multiple factors.

        My god, just look at how Republicans have swung in their view of the debt and deficit. We might argue that their views on that issue should be a direct function of the implications of policy proposals to their world view, and identifiable by some kind of ideological calculus resulting from the worldview implications of debt and a deficit. No doubt, Republicans made exactly that kind of argument by the bucketful a few short years ago, where the debt and deficit were clear indications of the ideological inferiority, and moral depravity, of the tax stealing Obama and the Demz in a massive communistic wealth transfer from the doers to the “moochers.” And we’ve gone from that state of statist tyranny, under Obama’s budget proposals to….

        ….

        Well, basically crickets in the latest budget proposals that sailed through the Republican Senate and will be signed by an extremely popular president (among Republicans).

        Once again, I don’t dismiss Patrick’s theory outright. I think that there is some level of validity to the line he draws between his construct of an ideological constellation to how the right and the left polarize on climate change (in the US at least). However, I think there is a rather complicated matrix of mechanisms to explain public views on climate change – and it’s pretty difficult to measure the degree to which Patrick’s hypothesis actually explains the polarization.

      • Joshua says:

        Oh, and thanks again for reading my opaque comments.

      • dpy6629 says:

        A lot of words that say really nothing, Joshua. There is little evidence of a long term trend in the Gallup data which disproves your point and supports Patrick’s theory. Polling goes up and down a lot but the long term trend is perhaps more meaningful. This post is about climate change, not about all the other issues you bring up. Cherry picking one question is not good but even your cherry picked data shows you misstated the facts here.

      • Joshua says:

        David –

        I pointed to examples to show that it is hard to draw a straight line from some abstracted matrix of worldviews to how people with certain partisan identifications locate on specific, particularly polarized issues.

        It seems to me that to “disprove [my] point” there would be a couple of obvious choices. (1) you could show that I was mistaken about those examples, and that in fact there is such a straight line the worldview matrix and partisans’ stance, (2) show that my sampling isn’t representative of the dynamic involved in how partisans orient within a worldview matrix – and that in fact most often there is such a straight line or, (3) show that for some reason, the issue of climate change is some kind of an outlier in that regard.

        I also described how the lack in other countries, of a straight through line between partisan association on climate change and a worldview matrix, would seem contrary to Patrick’s theory of such a straight through line being an inherent function of the implications of climate change to that worldview matrix. It would seem to me that a way to “disprove [my] point” in that regard would be to show why the US (or the issue of climate change in the US) is some kind of an outlier.

        I also described, showing a graph of public opinion polling, how Republicans as a group have shifted over time w/r/t views on climate change – a fact that I think undermines the viewpoint that Republican’s views on climate change are a function of how climate change maps onto a worldview matrix. If there were such a straight through line, one would expect that such shifting would come about as a result of the implications of climate change shifting over time in how they map out onto the ideological matrix that Patrick refers to.

        The fact that Republicans may have shifted, as a group, in 2017 or 2018 (I’d be curious to see the evidence you’re referencing, btw) doesn’t “disprove [my] point” as far as I can see – in fact, it seems to me that it only strengthens my point, as the changes from 2013 to 2017-18 would suggest that indeed, there are “external forcings” as I described it, which affect how partisans orient w/r/t the implications of climate change beyond some natural outgrowth of intrinsic implications of climate change to some abstracted world view constellation. And of course, also, there is the evidence that Republicans have gone from nominating for president (and in general elective representatives) who advocated policy to address climate change to nominating for president someone who describes climate change as a “Chinese hoax.” That, also, would suggest that Republicans have moved on climate change independently with some kind of intrinsic implications of climate change within the framework of some static worldview matrix. Politicians, in general, choose positions stances to leverage political expediency with their constituencies. It seems to me to be unlikely that there would be such a dramatic change in the positioning of Republican politicians, without an accompanying shift in the views of the Republilcan electorate – independent of some kind of natural and intrinsic relationship between the implications of climate change and a worldview matrix.

        And finally, of course, there is also plenty of evidence that despite having strong views on the subject, most people (Pubz and Demz alike) actually have only the most surface understanding of the implications of climate change. Thus, it seems likely that there are influences other than (simply) the implications of climate change to a worldview matrix. Indeed, there is evidence of such – in particularly the influences of the state of the economy and short-term weather phenomena.

        It would be nice if you actually engaged in a substantive discussion of those points. It might prove interesting. Short of that, perhaps I should just wait for Patrick to do so?

        Oh, and thanks again for reading my opaque comments.

      • dpy6629 says:

        Once again way too many words and essentially no data. Show me the data for foreign countries. Europe is different because conservatives there usually are not fans of small government (at least not since Thatcher).

        You’re like a skeptic who says “its true that GHG’s” are a forcing but you can’t rule out other influences like natural variability.” I would argue that world views and their preferences largely dictate attitudes about global warming, particularly in the US. There are secondary influences, but they are smaller and harder to quantify as your intense struggle to do so here shows.

        Hint: Next time spend some time trying to boil your comments down to a few clear points.

      • Joshua says:

        David –

        I realize that you aren’t finding the arguments I’m presenting to be worth a substantive response, which presumably might explain why you haven’t offered what seems to me to be a substantive response – but I have to say I’m a little confused why you keep responding to offer what seem to me to be non-substantive responses along with the odd assortment of comments made in bad faith. It isn’t clear to my why don’t you just simply not respond? If you do respond, why don’t you bother to take time to actually address the points I’ve made in a substantive way?

        As for your latest (what seems to me to be) non-substantive response:

        > Show me the data for foreign countries.

        A simple Google search is all you would need to do. For example, you’d find something along these lines:

        The effect of left–right ideology in Western Europe is considerably weaker than the effect of political ideology (and party identification) in the USA (see, e.g., McCright and Dunlap 2011), where climate change has been thoroughly politicized since the early 1990s (e.g., McCright and Dunlap 2000, 2003, 2010, Oreskes and Conway 2010, Dunlap and McCright 2015). Yet, in spring 2008 –before the 2008 global financial crisis, the late 2009 climategate controversy, and the resulting politicization of climate change in the EU –there was a robust, modestly sized left–right divide on climate change views in the general publics of Western European countries.

        In contrast, as expected, there is no consistent ideological divide on climate change views in the general publics of the Eastern European countries. Indeed, political ideology has a statistically significant albeit weak effect in only one model. Perhaps unexpectedly, citizens on the right report greater personal willingness to pay to fight climate change than do citizens on the left in former Communist countries. Overall, the lack of a consistent ideological divide in the former Communist countries is likely due to the low political salience of climate change and the differing meaning of left–right identification in these countries.

        https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A9ca5b61e-3279-4b39-9a9b-158c55a429a1

        Which seems entirely consistent with what I argued – that the partisanship that we have here in the US isn’t simply a function of some natural law of how the implications of climate change, and the nature of policy proposals that have been made to address it, map onto some matrix of ideological word views. Context seems important, and more specifically, among other influences, the degree to which the issue of climate change stimulates tribal identity affiliations (independently of the actual science or actual implications of climate change, or even the actual policy proposals that are made to address it).

        So at this point, I’ll just wait to see if you actually want to engage at a level I consider substantive, and simply not bother responding further to your comments unless that happens. And I’ll leave you with another point which you can choose to respond to in a way that seems substantive to me. Or not. As you wish.

        Consider issues such as inter-racial marriage. Or women working outside the home. Or attitudes towards sexuality. If we went a certain number of decades back, we could easily present a logic whereby the intrinsic features of those issues would explain a resulting partisanship on those issues. For example could find an explanation that conservatives would be expected to find inter-racial marriage as an affront to their values. Indeed, we can see relatively recently that conservatives feel that the values and mores inextricably tied to homosexuality justified the state pushing its way into the nature of personal relationship – to the point where it would be illegal to engage in certain kinds of sexual activities.

        But to a significant degree, and thankfully so, conservatives as a group have changed, on average, in how they view the intrinsic implications of those issues, and as a group have moved in their orientation on those issues. That hasn’t happened because the implications of those issues have changed. Neither has it happened because conservatives have structurally modified their orientation in relation to some kind of abstracted ideological matrix. What has happened is that conservatives, as a group, have come to change their perspective on how their identity as conservatives lines up with those issues. It is their tribal orientation to those issues that have changed, not the implications of the issues themselves, nor, presumably, some natural law of how the issues map onto some ideological matrix.

        And along with giving you something else to ponder, I wish you well, and as always, thanks for reading my opaque, overly-long, cherry-picked, “skeptic”-like, and “proven wrong” comments that actually say nothing.

      • dpy6629 says:

        I think Josh you are just confused about what Patrick actually says. He doesn’t so far as I see draw “a straight line relationship” between anything. He is contrasting his quite rational explanation with the usual leftist explanations (common in the consensus enforcement community) that right wing views are just anti-science. This just shows there ignorance of those making the assertion. He does not exclude other factors. Its a question of what the main factor is. I already said that above. Did you read it?

        So far as I can see you don’t really have any substantive quibble with this. So my conclusion is that you don’t like some of the wording or the references to the Republican brain propaganda.

        You don’t respond to what people say and that’s why few bother to read or respond to your meandering dissertations. There are obvious explanations for why European conservatives are more open to big government.

        P. S. Quoting something that references Oreskes will cast doubt on anything your source may say, especially when it is discussing so complex a subject as public attitudes. Oreskes is a prejudiced academic who may not even know any real conservatives or climate skeptics.

      • Joshua says:

        David –

        > There are obvious explanations for why European conservatives are more open to big government.

        I think that you’re oversimplifying, as I think the dynamics are rather complicated.

        For example, American conservatives are quite inconsistent in openness to big government – as seen recently in the popularity among “conservatives” of a government which has implemented tariffs on a very large scale, or embraced crony capitalism (most easily seen with the whole Carrier thing) on a wide scale as we see with the large-scale infusion of private sector chiefs into the current administration, or as with the aforementioned “conservative” support for big government intrusion into private sex lives, or the swicheroo w/r/t attitudes about an individual insurance mandate, or a centralized government energy policy that favors fossil fuels over other energy sources, or government spending on the military, etc. While American conservatives might be less open to some big government than European conservatives – say spending on a safety net to help poor people – they aren’t on other aspects of big government. And the shifting and moving w/r/t conservatives attitudes toward big government is clearly a function of far more than just a logical extension from some kind of worldview map.

        I would suggest that tribalism plays a very important role in their attitudes towards big government just as it does with attitudes about climate change policies.

        But regardless, you are reinforcing my point. The attitude of “conservatives” on a whole variety of issues are dependent on context and many factors, and not some relatively simply line drawn between some kind of worldview matrix and an abstracted view of what the ramifications might be to something like climate change policies.

      • dpy6629 says:

        You are so obviously biased Joshua. You keep analyzing conservatives looking for inconsistencies and “tribalism” but ignore left wing science denial and propaganda like “The Republican Brain.” Just 1 blatant example of your ignorance of conservatism from your last comment. Tariffs are not “big government” by any reasonable standard as before the income tax they mostly funded the Federal government (when it was a small government). Conservatives are not all libertarians who are free market fundamentalists. That you don’t seem to know the difference shows insularity or laziness.

        And now we finally get to Joshua’s talking point for the last 20 years, viz., the power of tribalism (Joshua’s sun that explains most of the climate of everything). How trite and 1 dimensional. Patrick is much more persuasive.

        As to your “straight line argument” its a straw man. No one here is saying anything here follows from a single cause 100%. To be taken seriously, you need to read what other people say and then actually respond with something interesting.

      • Joshua says:

        David –

        As I believe I said previously in this thread, I don’t think that there’s anything disproportionately prevalent about tribalism between liberals and conservatives, respectively.. I see the forces that drive tribalism as being more or less common to all humans, and particularly common to people who grow up in a shared culture contemporaneously with each other

      • dpy6629 says:

        I think its actually pretty rare to find people who are even rational about their beliefs. The vast majority take their views from popular culture or thought leaders who themselves use emotional appeals to try to increase their clicks or revenue. Most alarming is that academia (outside some parts of the sciences and engineering) seems to be pushing a post rational form of cultural Marxism that is really corrosive to Enlightenment values. Romanticism starting with Rousseau was of course explicitly anti-rational. This is a more meaningful place to look for the sources of our current discontent.

  5. False equivalence says:

    Denying science on vaccination and genetic modification is not a Left position at all. It is also super confusing that you reference a blog post which goes to great length to refute your claim rather than supporting it…

    Some philosophical debate about nature vs nurture is not at all comparable to denying scientific consensus in a hard science.

    So that leaves us with no counterexamples of hard science denial (that is even remotely comparabe to climate change or evolution denial) on the Left, giving us instead the conclusion “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”.

    • dpy6629 says:

      FE, I don’t know which planet you are living on but you are overlooking some pretty obvious and we known stuff. One could point to biology and the idea that gender and (even recently sex) are social constructs so popular on the left and in academia. There is also a strong element of denial on the left about the obvious inequality among different cultures and ideologies. Thus leftists deny that Islam is any different than Christianity. This is quite wrong of course as even a cursory enquiry would show. There are common elements between Nazi ideology and Islam and history shows that many Middle Easterners were sympathetic to Nazi Germany. And then there is the issue which Patrick mentions concerning the role of genetics in intelligence. There is very strong evidence here and the left denies it.

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