Tribal solidarity, by digby: This post by Chris Mooney about his new book called The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality is an interesting insight into something that baffles all of us:I can still remember when I first realized how naïve I was in thinking—hoping—that laying out the “facts” would suffice to change politicized minds, and especially Republican ones. It was a typically wonkish, liberal revelation: One based on statistics and data. Only this time, the data were showing, rather awkwardly, that people ignore data and evidence—and often, knowledge and education only make the problem worse.Someone had sent me a 2008 Pew report documenting the intense partisan divide in the U.S. over the reality of global warming. It’s a divide that, maddeningly for scientists, has shown a paradoxical tendency to widen even as the basic facts about global warming have become more firmly established.
Buried in the Pew report was a little chart showing the relationship between one’s political party affiliation, one’s acceptance that humans are causing global warming, and one’s level of education. And here’s the mind-blowing surprise: For Republicans, having a college degree didn’t appear to make one any more open to what scientists have to say. On the contrary, better-educated Republicans were more skeptical of modern climate science than their less educated brethren. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans agreed that the planet is warming due to human actions, versus 31 percent of non-college-educated Republicans.
For Democrats and Independents, the opposite was the case. More education correlated with being more accepting of climate science—among Democrats, dramatically so. The difference in acceptance between more and less educated Democrats was 23 percentage points.
This was my first encounter with what I now like to call the “smart idiots” effect: The fact that politically sophisticated or knowledgeable people are often more biased, and less persuadable, than the ignorant. It’s a reality that generates endless frustration for many scientists—and indeed, for many well-educated, reasonable people...
...Ultimately, this is about tribalism, feeling part of a group, being validated by it and thinking and behaving in ways that preserve your place in it. We all do it to some extent...
The simple rule is this: if you want to persuade liberals of something, bring out the charts and spreadsheets. If you want to persuade conservatives of something, make them identify emotionally with what you want them to believe. ...
I agree with the "make them identify emotionally" part for conservatives. For example, this is telling:
Last week, 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released a tax plan that, in addition to giving the richest 0.1 percent of Americans a $240,000 tax cut, would blow a $10.7 trillion hole in the deficit. Romney insists that his tax cuts would be paid for by limiting deductions for the rich, but many analysts have pointed out that his numbers simply can’t add up.
Today on ABC’s This Week, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) noted that Romney’s tax plan would exacerbate income inequality while causing the deficit to explode. Former Gov. John Engler (R-MI) responded by dismissing the numbers, saying that “voters aren’t analysts”:
Granholm: Every analysts who’s looked at, for example, Mitt Romney’s tax plan, says it exacerbates income disparities. Even the deficit, between $2 trillion and $6 trillion he adds to the deficit.
Engler: Voters aren’t analysts. Voters are emotional, and it’s about leadership. And they know what they’ve got. If they like that, they can vote to keep it.
So, for Republicans it appears to be more about signaling by taking extreme positions than truth telling. What I'm less sure about is the claim that the way to convince liberals is to "bring out the charts and spreadsheets." Perhaps, but I think emotional appeal is important here as well. What do you think?