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The Polarizing Effect of the March for Science on Attitudes toward Scientists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2018

Matthew Motta*
University of Minnesota


Americans’ attitudes toward scientists have become more negative in recent years. Although researchers have considered several individual-level factors that might explain this change, little attention has been given to the political actions of scientists themselves. This article considers how March for Science rallies that took place across the United States in late April 2017 influenced Americans’ attitudes toward scientists and the research they produce. An online panel study surveying respondents three days before and two days after the March found that liberals’ and conservatives’ attitudes toward scientists polarized following the March. Liberals’ attitudes toward scientists became more positive whereas conservatives’ attitudes became more negative. However, the March appears to have had little effect on the public’s attitudes about scientific research. In addition to answering questions about the March’s political impact, this research calls attention to the possibility that the political actions of scientists can shape public opinion about them.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

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