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Anti-Scientific Americans

The Prevalence, Correlates, & Political Consequences of Anti-Intellectualism in the U.S.

Oxford University Press 

Tentative Release: Fall 2024

Anti-Scientific Americans offers new theoretical and data-driven insights into the prevalence, origins, and policy consequences of anti-intellectualism in the U.S. Building on recent theoretical advances, the book begins by conceptualizing anti-intellectualism as the dislike and distrust of scientists, academics, and other experts. It then brings together “micro-level” survey data from cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys spanning six decades, and aggregated “macro-level” data from hundreds of opinion polls dating back to the 1940s, to show that anti-intellectualism is both a pervasive and pernicious presence in American public life. One third of Americans can be thought about as holding anti-intellectual attitudes at any given time, which have become increasingly politicized following the rise of the Tea Party in the early 2010s. Reviving often-overlooked insights from Richard Hofstadter's pioneering (1963) work on the subject, the book also shows that anti-intellectualism both shapes and is shaped by Americans' resentment of the role that experts play in the policymaking process. Correspondingly, anti-intellectualism motivates opposition to evidence-based policies in several areas, including on issues related to climate change, economic policy, and resistance to the advice of public health experts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The book also shows that elected officials respond to increases in public (“macro-level”) anti-intellectualism by curtailing experts' influence in the policymaking process. Still, Anti-Scientific Americans concludes on an optimistic note by discussing how what we might learn from this book can help reduce the prevalence and pernicious impact of anti-intellectualism in American political life, and restore Americans’ faith in experts.

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