By way of John Sides, we come across this analysis of some data from the General Social Survey:
(the five categories of educational status are, from left to right: didn’t graduate from high school, high school graduate, some college, college graduate, post-graduate degree)
While connecting the dots in a line is a little misleading (there’s no reason to think that a college graduate is twice as educated as a high school graduate), there are two interesting things here:
1) Conservatives with a lot of education rank the same as liberals with a high school education. If supporters of evolution were cunning–and evil–we could use that. Snootiness works.
2) Increasing educational achievement among liberals has a significant effect, while it’s minimal among conservatives.
Sides, looking at these data along with global warming opinions, concludes:
One explanation for this is familiar to any reader of John Zaller’s The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion: when political elites take contrasting positions on issues, those positions will be reflected in their fellow partisans in the public, at least among those who are paying enough attention to politics to receive these elite messages.
But I’m not convinced, regarding evolution, that’s what’s happening here. Digby describes the opinions of some conservative pundits on evolution, a fair number of whom are creationists, and what’s striking is how little they know about the subject. I wonder if well-educated anti-evolution conservatives are taking their cues from the theopolitical right, which is not elitist*, at least on social issues. Whether this is political expedience or sincerely held belief (not that I care either way) I leave open.
After all, David Koch has given millions of dollars to further the study of human evolution, which to a creationist, is perfidy. And there’s no big money interests behind creationism–that seems to be a popular movement**.
This seems like the tail wagging the dog.
*Authoritarian, yes. But not traditional Toryism.
**Not that there aren’t people financially exploiting creationists, but they’re not exactly a large corporate interest.