“Those who believed that mean temperatures had risen had significantly higher levels of trust in climate science, were significantly more egalitarian, more communitarian, and more liberal than those who did not believe temperatures had risen…. these results affirm prior findings that cultural values are a significant determinant of climate change beliefs.” Carlton, Perry-Hill and Prokopy (2015). The climate change consensus extends beyond climate scientists

In other words, Democrats are smart and Republicans are dumb (or at least stubbornly anti-science due to valuing the wrong things). Then again, consider the following:

_2019 Belief in Astrology and Politics.png

Per the above table, twice as many Democrats as Republicans consider astrology “very” scientific and Republicans are more likely than Democrats to consider astrology “not at all” scientific. What’s going on here? Is there a solid scientific case for believing in astrology? No.

“[O]ne of the hallmarks of science is that ideas are modified when warranted by the evidence. …Scientific studies involving astrology have stopped after attempting and failing to establish the validity of astrological ideas. So far, there are no documented cases of astrology contributing to a new scientific discovery…Astrology has not changed its ideas in response to contradictory evidence…When astrologers do publish, these articles are not usually peer-reviewed or published in places where they will be critically scrutinized by the scientific community… In addition, the astrological community largely ignores evidence that contradicts its ideas.” - Astrology: Is it scientific? https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/astrology_checklist

So why would egalitarian liberals embrace signals of scientific respectability in one case (climate change) but not another (astrology). My guess is that “values” have less to do with it than trust, and whom one trusts has a lot to do with one’s politics. For example, over the past 50 years, there has been rather strong anti-capitalist currents within the environmental movement, not to mention recurrent false alarms - remember the population explosion, peak oil, and the coming Ice Age? Is it any wonder that over the same period of time, Republicans have moved away from environmentalism? As for astrology, I’m thinking that has to do with the dim side of “openness to experience”, a trait  associated more with Democrats than Republicans.

Final note: explaining climate change attitudes as a matter of cultural values confuses correlation with causation. Plus there’s evidence that values are more the effect than cause of partisan identity. For instance, one longitudinal study found that changes in party affiliation predicted changes in values (including egalitarianism) but not the other way around. As the study’s author puts it:

“…partisan identities are more stable and resistant to change than abstract beliefs about equal opportunity, limited government, traditional family values, and moral tolerance (although the latter two are also quite stable). This pattern of results is, of course, consistent with the notion that causes are more temporally stable than effects.” Goren (2005)


Goren, P. (2005), Party Identification and Core Political Values. American Journal of Political Science, 49: 881-896. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2005.00161.x

Lindgren, James T., Who Believes that Astrology is Scientific? (February 20, 2014). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 14-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2395697