Friday, October 18, 2013

Word Association

Let's play a word association game: I show you a word and you tell me what words come to mind. Okay, here goes: Tea Party. And you say, what? Well, if you're like many people in the U.S. you're saying things like: Simple-minded, bigots, uneducated, science deniers, etc. That's the portrait our media has assiduously painted of these neanderthals, but comes now a study from a liberal Yale law professor, no less, which debunks the myth.

Kyle Becker at the Independent Journal Review has the story:
Yale Law professor Dan M. Kahan was conducting an analysis of the scientific comprehension of various political groups when he ran into a shocking discovery: tea party supporters are slightly more scientifically literate than the non-tea party population.
Professor Kahan was somewhat taken aback by his results. He says this:
I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party. All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.
Well, it's certainly easy to see why, given Kahan's sources of information, his understanding of who the Tea Party people are was out of synch with reality. He's surely not going to get an accurate picture of who they are from reading Huffpo and Politico. Even so, a 2010 New York Times poll found that people who identify ideologically with the Tea Party are wealthier and better educated than the average American, so maybe Kahan shouldn't have been surprised at the results of his survey after all.

Anyway, mischaracterizing conservatives as dunces is an old play in the left's playbook. In fact, that was exactly how they sought to portray both Reagan (an "amiable dunce") and George W. Bush (even though Bush's grades at Yale were better than John Kerry's). Sadly, name-calling and smears often work with those too uninformed to know better.