Not all skepticism is equal: Exploring the ideological antecedents of science acceptance and rejection

Bastiaan T. Rutjens*, Robbie M. Sutton, Romy van der Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many topics that scientists investigate speak to people’s ideological worldviews. We report three studies—including an analysis of large-scale survey data—in which we systematically investigate the ideological antecedents of general faith in science and willingness to support science, as well as of science skepticism of climate change, vaccination, and genetic modification (GM). The main predictors are religiosity and political orientation, morality, and science understanding. Overall, science understanding is associated with vaccine and GM food acceptance, but not climate change acceptance. Importantly, different ideological predictors are related to the acceptance of different scientific findings. Political conservatism best predicts climate change skepticism. Religiosity, alongside moral purity concerns, best predicts vaccination skepticism. GM food skepticism is not fueled by religious or political ideology. Finally, religious conservatives consistently display a low faith in science and an unwillingness to support science. Thus, science acceptance and rejection have different ideological roots, depending on the topic of investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-405
Number of pages22
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • anti-science
  • conservatism
  • morality
  • religion
  • science
  • science skepticism


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