Trumpism, climate and COVID: Social bases of the new science rejection.

Academic Article


  • Although the hazards posed by greenhouse warming and COVID-19 are quite different, diagnosis and mitigation prospects for both depend heavily on science. Unfortunately, the reality of both threats has been subject to politicized science rejection in the US, making these deadly problems less tractable. There are substantial parallels between the two cases of science rejection, including common rhetoric and conservative political leadership. Survey research has reached widely-replicated conclusions regarding the social bases of climate-change perceptions. Corresponding studies of COVID-19 perceptions have found some political commonalities, but less agreement on other details. Here, we address this gap using generalized structural equation modeling (GSEM) and 2021 US survey data to make direct comparisons between the social bases of rejecting the reality of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and rejecting COVID-19 vaccination. Trumpism, operationalized from approval of ex-president Trump, is viewed as an intervening variable that influences both types of science rejection. Trumpism itself is predicted by age, race, evangelical religion, ideology, and receptivity to seemingly non-political conspiracy beliefs. Considering direct as well as indirect effects (through Trumpism), climate change and vaccine rejection are similarly predicted by white and evangelical identity, conspiracism, and by education×ideology and friends×party interactions. The finding that Trumpism exacerbates science rejection could also apply to other science- and expertise-related topics unrelated to climate and COVID. These results invite broader comparisons across topics, with analogous movements in other countries, and continued tracking as US Trumpism evolves beyond Trump.
  • Publication Date

  • 2024
  • Published In

  • PLoS ONE  Journal
  • Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Climate Change
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • e0293059
  • Volume

  • 19
  • Issue

  • 1