But, over all, the trends were clear. The more people believed in free-market ideology, the less they believed in climate science; the more they accepted science in general, the more they accepted the conclusions of climate science; and the more likely they were to be conspiracy theorists, the less likely they were to believe in climate science.
These results fit in with a longer literature on what has come to be known as “motivated reasoning.” Other things being equal, people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to disbelieve new information that might challenge them. The classic study for this came in the nineteen-sixties, shortly after the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and lung cancer, which suggested that smoking appeared to cause lung cancer. A careful survey revealed that (surprise!) smokers were less persuaded than nonsmokers were. Nonsmokers believed what the Surgeon General had to say. Smokers heaped on the counterarguments: “many smokers live a long time” (true, but ignores the statistical evidence), “lots of things are hazardous” (a red herring), ”smoking is better than being a nervous wreck,” and so forth, piling red herrings on top of unsupported assumptions. Other research has shown a polarization effect: bring a bunch of climate change doubters into a room together, and they will leave the room even more skeptical than before, more confident and more extreme in the their views.
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