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

Nathan Cofnas, Noah Carl, Michael A. Woodley of Menie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-148
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Sociologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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


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