Open Journal of Political Science
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 116-130
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Knowledge Gaps, Belief Gaps, Ideology, and Culture Wars
Cecilie Gaziano
Research Solutions, Inc., Minneapolis, USA
Received July 13th, 2013; revised August 12th, 2013; accepted August 22nd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Cecilie Gaziano. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Ideological and partisan fissures increasingly divide the United States into opposing factions. This article
discusses a theoretical framework for research on knowledge and belief gaps in order to better understand
increasing gulfs between conservatives and liberals. The perspective develops from “knowledge gap” re-
search (Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970), a “belief-knowledge gap” hypothesis (Gaziano & Gaziano,
1999, 2009), and Hindman’s “belief gap” research (2009, 2012). Hindman distinguished between knowl-
edge as empirically observed by scientists and beliefs or views accepted without an empirical foundation,
frequently based on religious faith. He, like Gaziano and Gaziano, considered knowledge to be socially
constructed. The Gaziano and Gaziano perspective treats knowledge as a form of belief and ideology as a
multifaceted concept, maintaining that social and political groups differ in personality, values, moral
foundations, attitudes, reasoning styles, conceptions of power relations, and even neurological and genetic
make-up. This helps to explain why conservatives and liberals can appear to be two cultures. Their level
of analysis is collective, rather than individual, a main tenet is that beliefs are knowledge, and the unit of
analysis is “belief-knowledge” differences between ideological segments of social subsystems. This per-
spective advocates approaching ideology from a viewpoint of understanding differences. One can begin to
frame solutions to ideological conflicts by accepting the other side as valid, by trying to understand the
differences, and by appealing to the other cultural groups’ values, conceptual systems, mores, and social
life. An important question is how the interests and beliefs of conservatives and liberals, as well as mod-
erates, can be addressed to improve social and political system functioning instead of driving them further
apart. The article proposes hypotheses and research questions for future research.
Keywords: Knowledge Gap; Belief Gap; Ideology; Polarization; Political Theory; Culture Wars
Both political elites and the public have become more polar-
ized along ideological and partisan lines in the United States
since the 1970s (Abramowitz & Saunders, 2005; Layman,
Carsey, & Horowitz, 2006; McCarty, Poole, & Rosenthal, 2006;
Shapiro & Bloch-Elkon, 2008; Treier and Hillygus, 2009).
Some see this phenomenon as developing from a sorting proc-
ess whereby conservatives increasingly identify as Republicans
and liberals increasingly identify as Democrats (Levendusky,
2009). Others view this as a process deriving from social dis-
tance theory whereby “both Republicans and Democrats in-
creasingly dislike, even loathe, their opponents” (Iyengar, Sood,
& Lelkes, 2012: p. 405).
Regardless of which underlying forces may be at work, po-
larization figures prominently in debates about controversial
scientific issues such as global warming and climate change
(Hindman, 2009; Ladwig, 2010; McCright & Dunlap, 2011),
stem cell research (Ho, Brossard, & Scheufele, 2008), sexuality
(Burack, 2008; Hindman & Yan, 2012; Smith, 2001), and evo-
lution (Ladwig, 2010). Ideological and partisan divisions ex-
tend to a wide range of issues beyond scientific matters, such as
whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, numbers
of casualties in the Iraq war, national economic conditions,
economic inequality, welfare issues, healthcare reform, and
Social Security (Abramowitz & Saunders, 2005; Bartels, 2002;
Blake & Culley, 2011; Daves, White, & Everett, 2011; Hind-
man, 2012; Shapiro & Bloch-Elkon, 2008).
Some scholars perceive these clashes over social, moral, or
cultural issues to be the eruptions of two different cultures into
“culture wars” (Gramsci, 1916-1935, 2000); Hunter, 1992;
Thomson, 2010; Zimmerman, 2002). Many view this schism
with apprehension, and reasons for these developments are the
subject of much research. While conflict can be an important
element in the process of public opinion formation, irresolvable
conflict harms the democratic process.
The objective of this article is to discuss a theoretical frame-
work for research on knowledge and belief disparities in order
to better understand increasing gulfs between conservatives and
liberals and between Republicans and Democrats. The frame-
work develops from “knowledge gap” research (Tichenor,
Donohue, & Olien, 1970), a “belief-knowledge gap” hypothesis
(Gaziano & Gaziano, 1999, 2009), and Hindman’s “belief gap”
research (2009, 2012; Hindman & Yan, 2012). Ideology is de-
fined as a philosophy or body of ideas that forms the basis of a
political, economic, social, or other system, reflects its needs
and interests, and provides blueprints for action1. Main ele-
1Retrieved from:
ments of American conservatism include a “political philoso-
phy or attitude emphasizing respect for traditional institutions,
distrust of government activism, and opposition to sudden
change in the established order”2. Political liberalism in the US
supports reform, openness to innovative ideas, tolerance, broad-
mindedness, and willingness to question tradition3.
Building on the Knowledge Gap Hypothesis
The theoretical framework developed first from work on the
knowledge gap hypothesis by Tichenor et al. (1970: pp.
159-160), who postulated that: “As the infusion of mass media
information into a social system increases, segments of the
population with higher socioeconomic status [SES] tend to
acquire this information at a faster rate than the lower status
segments, so that the gap in knowledge between these segments
tends to increase rather than decrease”. Much research supports
the hypothesis, although many scholars have focused on condi-
tions under which the gap increases or decreases (Gaziano,
1997; Gaziano & Gaziano, 2009; Hwang & Jeong, 2009;
Viswanath & Finnegan, 1996). The Minnesota team empha-
sized the importance of studying information control (Donohue,
Tichenor, & Olien, 1973; Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1973).
Their questions were: Who will assert control over the defini-
tion, creation, and dissemination or suppression of knowledge
within what parts of the social system? Hindman (2009) and
Gaziano and Gaziano (1999) also ask these questions but differ
in definition of beliefs and knowledge.
Beliefs versus Knowledge
Hindman (2009, 2012) distinguished between knowledge as
value-free, cumulative, empirically observed by scientists and
beliefs or views accepted without an empirical foundation,
frequently based on religious faith. His 2009 article referred to
“politically disputed beliefs” socially constructed, which social
actors can bend to their own purposes. His 2012 article stated,
“Beliefs are claims about reality that are not based on evidence,
but are instead based on value systems, loyalties, reference
groups, social institutions, elite opinions, and ideological pre-
dispositions” (pp. 589-590). Hindman (2009) saw beliefs as
time-saving thought processes involving little, if any, critical
evaluation. Interest groups and political elites seek the power
“to define what counts as knowledge, how problems are defined,
and which problems are addressed” (p. 792).
He proposed that: “Political ideology is a better predictor of
the distribution of politically disputed beliefs than is education”
and, second, that: “As the infusion of mass media information
into the system increases over time, the relationship between
political ideology and politically disputed beliefs tends to
strengthen” (p. 794).
Beliefs Are Knowledge
It is not always easy, however, to distinguish clearly between
knowledge and belief. For example, McCright & Dunlap (2011)
talked about beliefs consistent or inconsistent with the scientific
consensus about climate change4. Kuklinski, Quirk, Jerit, Sch-
weider, and Rich (2000, 792-793) observed: “To be informed
requires, first, that people have factual beliefs and, second, that
the beliefs be accurate. If people do not hold factual beliefs at
all, they are merely uninformed. They are, with respect to the
particular matter, in the dark. But if they firmly hold beliefs that
happen to be wrong, they are misinformed—not just in the dark,
but wrongheaded”. Gaines, Kuklinski, Quirk, Peyton, and
Verkuilen (2007) point out that people may possess facts about
an issue, but:
Partisan-motivated interpretations can intercede between
even accurate factual beliefs and policy opinions. Indeed,
in what may be a central paradox of mass politics, those
who acquire the most information about a policy and its
consequences are also the most likely to rationalize their
existing opinions. They have the motivation and ability to
use interpretations for that purpose. Facts might play a
smaller part in political life than generations of scholars
have maintained.
People’s perceptions of understanding complicated issues
about which they actually know little can contribute to extreme
political attitudes, according to Fernbach, Rogers, Fox, and
Sloman (2013).
Gaziano and Gaziano (1999) viewed all knowledge, includ-
ing scientifically supported knowledge, as a form of belief and
termed their perspective the “belief-knowledge gap”. A “belief”
is an opinion, conviction, confidence in the truth or existence of
something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof, faith,
or trust, a principle or idea accepted as true5. Scientific knowl-
edge is a form of belief, based on systematic examination of
evidence, according to widely accepted scientific principles
such as being able to prove a theory false but not to prove it
true—only to support it. Other types of belief, such as religious
belief, may be based on acceptance of information that has not
been subjected to systematic observation of physical evidence.
Belief could be based on study of religious texts such as the
Bible, in a methodical manner, for example, and be perceived
as real.
See Evans and Evans (2008) for more on the social construc-
tion of both religious and scientific knowledge (p. 97):
The earliest canonical texts in what became the sociology
of scientific knowledge (SSK), published in the late 1970s
and early 1980s, made the case that scientific knowledge
is socially constructed, like any other knowledge... Such
studies examine religion and science not as feuding sym-
bol systems, but rather as social conflicts between institu-
tions struggling for power, with the content of the symbol
systems definitively bracketed.
When scientists prevail in conflicts between religion and sci-
ence it is not because of the perception of scientific ideas as
4The seminal knowledge gap article by Tichenor et al. (1970) included,
among a number of knowledge indicators, two belief measures: belief that
“man would reach the moon” within a certain number of years and belie
that “cigarettes cause lung cancer”. Hwang and Jeong (2009) included be-
liefs in their conceptualizations of four types of knowledge, the others being
factual, awareness, and combinations of these. They characterized “belie
knowledge” as counting the arguments that respondents supply about a topic
that is, collecting open-ended responses, as opposed to closed-ended re-
sponses. These definitions lack conceptual clarity, however.
5Collins English Dictionary, Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Re-
trieved from
2Retrieved from American Heritage Dictionary:
3Retrieved from the American Heritage Dictionary:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 117
“truth” but because certain institutions were regarded as more
credible (Evans & Evans, 2008).
Social construction refers to the meaning given to concepts
or practices as a result of individuals’ and groups’ patterns of
interaction and development of institutions, including beliefs
about the reality of these things, rather than intrinsic qualities
that exist outside of social contexts. Liberals and conservatives
may receive the same information and agree on the facts, for
example, the numbers of troop casualties in the Iraq War, but
they may differ on what the facts mean (Gaines et al., 2007).
One group can perceive the number of casualties as low, while
the other regards the figure as high. Receiving additional em-
pirically-based information does not ensure that people will
change their beliefs (Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; McCright &
Dunlap, 2011; Nyhan & Reiffler, 2010). Misinformation, not
supported by evidence, can be involved as well, especially that
disseminated by partisans or elite opponents of a policy such as
health care reform (Nyhan, 2010). Conservatives and liberals
can perceive each other’s “partisan-motivated interpretations”
as “misperceptions”, setting the stage for deeper rifts between
them (Gaines et al., 2007).
The belief-knowledge disparity framework includes the fol-
lowing assumptions: Beliefs are knowledge. Different groups
value the acquisition of knowledge differently or evaluate
various kinds of knowledge differently. Causes of knowledge
inequities are located primarily in processes of social defini-
tion—different groups possess different social definitions. The
social system of stratification can play a role in establishing
knowledge differentials and creating differences among groups
in their construction of knowledge and definitions.
Groups vary in their ability to control knowledge, and “social
construction of knowledge is often an important means of so-
cial control in itself. Control of knowledge that is functional for
one group can be dysfunctional for another” (p. 131). Conflict
resolution is more complicated when groups clash on defini-
tions of issues. It is important to know how groups vary in val-
ues, beliefs, personality, norms, and definitions of what counts
as knowledge when searching for solutions to social conflicts.
Although conflict frequently tends to distribute knowledge
more equally in a community or a society (Donohue, Tichenor,
& Olien, 1975), conflict appears to increase the development of
belief gaps (Gaines et al., 2007; Gauchat, 2012; Hindman, 2009,
2012; Kuklinski et al., 2000).
The Gaziano and Gaziano (1999) framework recasts the
original knowledge gap hypothesis as follows (p. 130): “As the
infusion of mass media information into society increases, cer-
tain groups will tend to acquire this information at a faster rate
than other groups, so that the gap in knowledge between these
groups tends to increase because of differences in their social
construction of knowledge—that is, their cultures”. This per-
spective agrees with Hindman (2009, 2012) that partisans and
elites seek to be in command of the definitions of issues and the
outcome of debate about them with an eye to their own benefit.
Differences between Conservatives and Liberals
Before proceeding further, some important findings about
ways in which liberals and conservatives diverge should be
taken into account.
Attitudes toward Chan ge and Equ ality
According to some theorists, conservatism has two main
components, resistance to change and support of inequality,
because of needs to reduce uncertainty and threat; liberalism is
the tendency to support change and oppose inequality (Jost,
Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003; Koleva & Rip, 2009).
Uncertainty and threat management had independent effects on
self-reported political conservatism, even when ideological
extremity was taken into account (Jost, Napier, Thorisdottir,
Gosling, Palfai, & Ostafin, 2007). For example, individual
variations in death anxiety were significantly related to conser-
vatism but not to ideological extremity.
A meta-analysis of data from 12 countries considered how
well various psychological variables such as dogmatism are
related to political constructs such as Right Wing Authoritari-
anism, the General Conservatism Scale, and the C-Scale (Jost et
al., 2003), all of which are relevant to attitudes toward change
and equality. The authors presented an “integrative model of
political conservatism as motivated conservatism” showing
uncertainty and fear or threat as environmental stimuli acting
on three categories of social-cognitive motives, all of which act
on political conservatism, leading to resistance to change and
endorsement of inequality. The social-cognitive motives in-
cluded epistemic motives (intolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty
avoidance, need for order), existential motives (self-esteem,
loss prevention, terror management), and ideological motives
(rationalization of self-interest, group-based dominance, system
justification). Motives and outcomes may vary by SES. For
example, low status groups may be more inclined to respond to
fear, threat, or insecurity by becoming more conservative and
attracted to right-wing beliefs, in contrast to higher status
groups who may react by adopting more conservative philoso-
phies out of self-interest or social dominance motives.
Another meta-analysis of 19 Eastern and Western European
nations used more generalizable population data from the
European Social Survey (Thorisdottir, Jost, Liviatan, & Shrout,
2007), in contrast to the earlier study, which relied considerably
on university student samples. Their expectation of one form of
resistance to change—traditionalism—and a form of need for
order—rule-following—as predictors of right-wing conserva-
tism held in both Eastern and Western Europe. Acceptance of
inequality, an indicator of conservatism, was sustained as a pre-
dictor only in the West, however. Openness to experience, a
frequent gauge of liberalism, held in the West but was con-
nected to right-wing orientation in the East. The need for secu-
rity, associated with right-wing orientation in research mainly
in the United States, was affirmed for Western Europe but was
related to left-wing orientation in Eastern Europe. One reason
for differences was the history of repressive left-wing rule in
Eastern Europe. The structures of political and economic sys-
tems, therefore, play mediating roles in relationships with left-
right orientations. The investigators also concluded that cultural
conservatism and economic conservatism are somewhat differ-
ent concepts6.
Moral Foundations Differ for Liberals and
Conservatives and liberals draw on different moral founda-
6Although only four Eastern European nations were represented (Hungary,
Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia), with more rapid economic and
democratic expansion than some other Eastern European countries not in-
cluded, the authors argued that the Eastern European data were of high
quality, consistent, and generalizable.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
tions, a chief reason why they have difficulty in understanding
each other, according to Haidt and Graham (2007), who iden-
tify five psychological foundations of morality: harm/care,
fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and pu-
rity/sanctity. They posit that liberals focus primarily on the first
two of these, but that conservatives draw upon all five. The
latter three principles have to do with loyalty to one’s group
(kin, country), respect for authority, and self-restraint from
“carnal” and “disgusting” behaviors (see, e.g., Inbar, Pizarro, &
Bloom, 2009).
Ideological Differences on the “Big Five” Personality
Some studies of ideology measure the “Big Five” personality
factors: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neu-
roticism, and openness, at least some of which are associated
with ideology. For example, Gerber, Huber, Raso, and Ha
(2009, p. 24), stated:
The strong linkage between the Big Five personality di-
mensions and political attitudes suggests that conserva-
tives and liberals appear to be different sorts of people,
not just people who happen to hold different political
views. These findings imply that personality may be an
important and neglected precursor to basic political orien-
tations and that personality may shape (directly or indi-
rectly) evaluations of contemporary political officials and
voting decisions.
Agreeableness was associated with liberalism, and conscien-
tiousness and emotional stability were linked to conservatism in
their large study. In one small study, conservatism tended to be
negatively correlated with openness and neuroticism and posi-
tively correlated with conscientiousness, extraversion, and
agreeableness (Thornhill & Fincher, 2007). Liberalism, in con-
trast, was negatively correlated with the latter three variables
and positively associated with neuroticism and openness. All
correlations were modest.
A small study from 1969 to 1971 of children born in the late
1960s provides data on the influence of personality in child-
hood and ideology (Block & Block, 2006). The youngsters
lived in Berkeley and Oakland, CA, varied in socioeconomic
levels, and attended two different nursery schools. Usable data
were obtained from 95 of the original 128 children. Personality
evaluations were conducted while they were in nursery school
as part of the Block and Block Longitudinal Study of Cognitive
and Ego Development at the University of California at Berke-
ley. These personality evaluations predicted ideological atti-
tudes years later when they were 23 years of age. The 49 fe-
males and 46 males completed self-reports during several
weeks on seven measures: a five-point liberal-conservative self-
rating scale, positions on issues such as abortion rights, a po-
litical rights (tolerance) scale, the Kerlinger Liberalism and
Conservatism scales, personal political activism, and percep-
tions of the positions of the two major political parties. The
males and females were analyzed separately. The first six
measures were convergent and used to construct a composite
“LIB/CON” score that was skewed toward liberalism, although
those scoring as conservative were relatively more homogene-
The more conservative young adults had been described in
nursery school as uncomfortable with uncertainty, indecisive,
fearful, rigid, more typed in sex roles, more likely to feel of-
fended, and more moralistic, among other attributes. Gender
differences were more evident, with females more often de-
scribed as quiet, neat, and compliant, and males more often
characterized as offering unsolicited advice. The more liberal
young adults had been seen as more self-reliant, resilient, more
likely to connect with others, relatively more non-conforming,
and autonomous. As children, the girls had been evaluated as
talkative, more dominating, aggressive, and judgmental of their
peers. The boys had been described as introspective, wider
ranging in interests, and more likely to see simple concepts in
more complex terms.
Attachment Style and Political Orientation
In contrast to the findings of Block and Block (2006), having
experienced more childhood stresses and having a sense of less
secure attachment to one’s primary caregiver or caring others
may predispose people to be more liberal, while more secure
attachments and lower childhood stress may predispose them to
be more conservative, according to Thornhill and Fincher
(2007). Briefly, attachment theory originally concerned how
well the primary caregiver was able to respond to the emotional
needs of the child in the early years of life (Bowlby, 1969). The
literature distinguishes secure parent-child attachment and four
types of insecure attachments (Crittenden & Ainsworth, 1989;
Main & Solomon, 1986). Studies of adult attachment tend to
concern romantic relationships. Unlike Thornhill and Fincher
(2007), three other studies of adult attachment and political
orientation linked greater security of attachment to more liberal
political orientations (Gillath & Hart, 2009; Weber & Federico,
2007; Weise et al., 2008), although findings were somewhat
mixed (Koleva & Rip, 2009). One criticism of these studies, all
of college students, is that this youthful population segment
does not mirror the general population and may not have had
much experience with the type of attachment measured—ro-
mantic attachments (Koleva & Rip, 2009). Also, the studies’
operational definitions of attachment are not necessarily com-
parable. The work of Thornhill & Fincher (2007), Weber and
Federico (2007), and Weise et al. (2008) featured three differ-
ent kinds of adult attachment scales, and Gillath and Hart (2009)
simply used an “attachment security prime” with three condi-
tions measured by one item—thinking of a secure attachment
figure, a close non-attachment figure, or an acquaintance.
Ideology Based on a Conception of Parent-Child
Power Relations
People may tend to understand ideology in terms of power
relations and ultimately, government-citizen relations, accord-
ing to the earliest example to which they are exposed—the
parent-child relationship (Barker & Tinnick, 2006; Feldman &
Stenner, 1997; Lakoff, 2002). In part, the social construction of
ideology stems from perceptions of parent-child relations as
either nurturance (related to liberalism) or discipline (related to
conservatism), and it conditions their views of appropriate gov-
ernment citizen relations, according to Lakoff’s theory, tested
by Barker & Tinnick (2006). Those who lean toward the nur-
turant model are more likely to stress egalitarian and compas-
sionate values; those inclined toward the disciplinarian model
tend to emphasize political individualism and traditionalism
(Barker & Tinnick, 2006; Lakoff, 2002).
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 119
Lakoff’s (2002) nurturant model stresses parent-child discus-
sion with explanations for rules and with give and take, allow-
ing for conflict and disagreement. This model values empathy,
social responsibility, and cooperation (Barker & Tinnick, 2006).
Lakoff’s “strict father”, or disciplinarian, model stresses strict
adherence to authority, punishment for infractions of rules, and
competition, in order to protect children from a dangerous and
difficult world. This model emphasizes personal responsibility,
self-discipline, and strong morals. Other models are possible,
and many families fall in between these opposites (e.g., see
Maccoby & Martin, 1983).
Barker and Tinnick (2006) tested Lakoff’s theory with data
from the 2000 American National Election Study (ANES),
which allowed construction of an index of items concerning the
qualities that children should have7. The authors also created
variables measuring strength of partisanship and strength of
ideology, as well as indices of value orientations, attitudes to-
ward ten social and political issues, and predictors of vote
choice and ideological constraint (directional and non-direc-
tional). Child rearing scores predicted attitudes toward a variety
of issues and of conservatism or liberalism, supporting Lakoff’s
Neurological and Genetic Evidence for Ideological
Political orientation can be detected even by research on the
brain, as a small experiment with 43 right-handed participants
demonstrated (Amodio, Jost, Master, & Yee, 2007). Partici-
pants recorded their political attitudes on a scale from ex-
tremely liberal (5) to extremely conservative (+5), and they
also responded to a series of tasks calling for a “Go” response
as a habitual reaction. Some trials, however, required a “No-
Go” response, a stimulus conflict that tends to produce en-
hanced anterior cingulated cortex activity, which can be meas-
ured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Being more
liberal was highly correlated with several neurocognitive pat-
terns related to adjustment to stimulus changes and response
accuracy. These results were considered to be consistent with
previous research showing liberals to be more adaptable to
information complexity, ambiguity and novelty, and conserva-
tives to be more responsive to more structured, orderly, and
predictable situations.
Genetics partially accounts for ideology, according to Alford,
Funk, and Hibbing (2005). It is not that specific attitudes are
inherited but that genotypes (genetic makeup) of people influ-
ence predispositions to attitudes and behaviors, depending on
environmental factors. Estimates of influences of nature and
nurture come from two large studies of twins in the United
States and in Australia. The twins studies are valuable because
two kinds of twins are involved in comparisons. The first is
monozygotic (MZ) twins, frequently called “identical”, that
form from a single egg fertilized by a single sperm. The tech-
nical name for these twins is “diamnionic monochorionic” (a
small subset is “monoamnionic monochorionic”). The second
type of twins is “diamnionic dichorionic,” or DZ twins, com-
monly known as “fraternal”, which develop from separate eggs
fertilized by separate sperms, and they share 50% of their ge-
netic makeup, in contrast to MZ twins, which share 100% of
genetic makeup.
Modeling procedures have been developed to partition the
contributions of heredity, shared environment, and unshared
environment in order to compare the correlations of MZ and
DZ twins on a wide range of variables, controlling for parental
traits and assortative mating of parents. Twins studies typically
are not conducted by political scientists, and the psychologists
who conduct twins research tend to think of political attitudes
as psychological traits, so political attitude measurement has
been less than ideal. A number of twins studies include meas-
ures of conservatism with a Wilson-Patterson (W-P) Attitude
Inventory, however. Alford and his colleagues (2005) gained
access to W-P data on thousands of American twin pairs, sup-
plemented by correlational analysis of published Australian
twin study results. Correlations were analyzed separately for
male/male and female/female twin pairs, excluding female/
male DZ twin pairs.
In the Virginia data heritability ranged from .18 to .41, and
all differences between MZ and DZ correlations were signifi-
cant at .01. The mean estimate of the 28 W-P items was .32 for
heritability, the mean estimate of shared environmental influ-
ence was .16, and the mean for unshared environment was .53.
A continuous variable was created further from the responses,
and the estimates of this index of ideological attitudes was .43
for heritability, .22 for shared environment, and .35 for un-
shared environment. In comparison, heritability of political
party affiliation was a mere .14; the mean for shared environ-
ment was .41 and for unshared environment, .45. On the other
hand, means of affect toward Republicans and Democrats were:
heritability, .31; shared environment, .17; and unshared envi-
ronment, .52. Genetics played an intriguing role in ideological
and party attitudes but scarcely any role in political party af-
filiation. In general, the Australian data were similar when atti-
tudes on specific issues, such as censorship, the death penalty,
and segregation, were examined.
Alford and his colleagues (2005) explained further that per-
haps the genetic components underlying these results are orien-
tations or phenotypes that “run to the very orientation of people
to society, leadership, knowledge, group life, and the human
condition” (p. 164).
Differences in Social Power on a Collective Level
Hindman (2009) found that ideology was a better predictor
than education of beliefs that global warming has been occur-
ring but that both education and ideology predicted beliefs that
human activity was responsible for global warming (during a
period from June 2006 to April 2008). A hypothesized belief
gap regarding global warming between conservatives and liber-
als was weakly supported over time; however, it was not sup-
ported over time concerning the role of human activity. In other
research party identification, however, bested education in pre-
dicting beliefs about the value of health care reform during
September 2009 and January 2010 (Hindman, 2012). In addi-
tion, partisanship was more powerful than education in predict-
ing knowledge about the contents of the health care reform bill
before Congress, and the relation between partisanship and
7The question wording was: “Although there are a number of qualities that
eople feel children should have, every person thinks that some are more
important than others. I am going to read you pairs of desirable qualities.
Please tell me which one you think is more important for children to have:
(1) Independence or respect for elders? (2) Curiosity or good manners? (3)
Being considerate or well behaved?” The disciplinarian responses are bold-
faced; these were coded as “0”. The other responses, nurturant model, were
coded as “1”. Responses were summed to produce a scale ranging from 0 to
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
knowledge increased during this period. Younger people, fe-
males, nonwhites, and those with lower incomes perceived the
greatest value in health care reform. Hindman (2012) pointed
out that these groups stood to benefit the most from health care
reform. Those with highest interest in the issue, on the other
hand, tended not to see the value of the bill personally or na-
tionally. He thought the divisive tone of media coverage sur-
rounding the proposal was partly the reason. Although educa-
tion was not a predictor of knowledge over time, income, an-
other indicator of socioeconomic status, was.
The relation of income to a range of dependent variables may
vary according to the positions of ideologues and partisans on
issues. Another study used 2008 ANES data to compare more
and less educated conservatives, moderates, and liberals (Ga-
ziano, 2013). Also studied were other demographics, religiosity,
child rearing values, need for cognition, opinionation, orienta-
tion toward politics, and mass media. The most striking finding
was that, although liberals tended to be more educated overall
than conservatives, better educated conservatives had the high-
est household incomes and were a proportionately larger group
than better educated liberals. No known knowledge gap studies
have reported results on one group characterized by high edu-
cation and an opposing group distinguished by a different indi-
cator of SES, such as high incomes. It may be that when ideol-
ogy-based belief-knowledge gaps occur, the most powerful
underlying explanation is income, although this might vary by
In many respects, the characteristics of more educated liber-
als contrasted dramatically with those of more educated con-
servatives and evoked the picture of divergent cultures. More
educated liberals differed from all the other groups in a number
of ways, including a greater propensity to have graduate work
beyond college and to be younger, female, non-white, em-
ployed, less religious, more oriented toward thinking and com-
plex problem solving, and being more opinionated than other
groups. They varied markedly from other groups in their child
rearing values but were less likely to have children because
they appeared to be in earlier stages of their life-cycles than
more educated conservatives were. They tended more than
others to have encountered the 2008 presidential campaign in
magazines and on the Internet, to not have military service, and
to be willing to self-identify as homosexual or bisexual.
Conservatives outnumber liberals in the general population
in the United States, and in particular, better educated con-
servatives are more numerous than better educated liberals.
More prosperous conservatives may have more access to pow-
erful interest groups and have advantages in accumulating so-
cial power. The growing antagonism between conservatives and
liberals, Republicans and Democrats, is increasingly manifested
by rising income inequality, according to McCarty et al. (2006)
because the Right no longer espouses policies that work against
inequality although the Left continues to advocate for policies
that support equality. They argue that these forces decreased in
the period from 1913 to 1957 but increased considerably in the
1970s. They examined implications for pronounced socioeco-
nomic changes and focused especially on the part immigration
occupies in these processes.
Conservatives, especially educated or church-going conser-
vatives, are more likely than liberals to distrust science, an in-
creasing trend according to analysis of data from the 1974 to
2010 General Social Surveys (Gauchat, 2012). Religiosity often
plays a role in mistrust of science (Brossard, Scheufele, E. Kim,
& Lewenstein, 2009; Gauchat, 2012; Gaziano, 2013; Ho et al.,
2008; Ladwig, 2010). Gauchat observed, however, that more
than religiosity is at work (2012, pp. 169-170): “One possible
interpretation, supported by a growing number of studies, is
that social factors such as race/ethnicity, income, religiosity,
social capital, and political identifications are at least as impor-
tant as knowledge and education in predicting trust in science
(Gauchat 2008, 2010; Sturgis and Allum 2004; Yearley
Conceptualizing Liberals and Conservatives as
Cultural Groups
This multiplicity of characteristics helps to suggest that cul-
tural differences are involved. Further, some key components of
ideology are described below, which illustrate the argument
that liberals and conservatives can be thought of as cultural
groups. These elements include attitudes toward change and
equality, moral foundations, personality characteristics, models
of power based on parent-child relations, differentials in social
power on collective levels, and neurological and genetic evi-
dence9. Figure 1 summarizes the relationships discussed in this
The following four tables of results of logistic regressions on
beliefs about sexual orientation, evolution, global warming, and
causes of global warming show how predictor variables vary in
strength across these issues. The poll from which these data
come had several science-related questions, including sexual
orientation, evolution, and global warming10. The overall tests
of the models are positive, and the Hosmer and Lemeshow tests
of goodness of fit between the predicted and observed prob-
abilities in classifying the dependent variables are all low and
non-significant, indicating models that fit well. The results
suggest that liberals and conservatives are different cultural
In Table 1 beliefs that sexual orientation can or cannot be
changed were examined in a hierarchical logistic regression, in
which beliefs were regressed on a first block of four key demo-
graphics, a second block including education, ideology, and
political party identification, a third block containing literalness
of interpretation of the Bible, frequency of attending religious
8Among the factors in such changes, according to Mooney (2005), are the
rise of the “New Right” beginning when Ronald Reagan was elected pre-
sident in 1980, strengthening when George W. Bush was elected president in
2000, and burgeoning with the development of the New Right media em
Components of the New Right—the religious right and transnational corpo-
rations—are suspicious of organized science and the intellectual establish-
ment in colleges and universities because the religious right perceives sci-
ence often to conflict with morality and religious beliefs and corporations
perceive science to threaten their profitability.
9Much social science research on ideology does attempt to treat liberalism
and conservatism even-handedly (e.g., Abramowitz & Saunders, 2005; Haidt
& Graham, 2007; Thornhill & Fincher, 2007), but some appears to take a
somewhat negative tone toward conservatism and its related characteristics
(Block & Block, 2006; Jost et al., 2007), or at the very least, focuses on
antecedents of conservatism while ignoring antecedents of liberalism (e.g.,
Jost et al., 2003). Less appears to be known about liberals’ intolerance than
is known about conservatives’ intolerance, so more research on liberals is
called for.
10Data are from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from a survey conducted July 6-19,
2006, N = 2003. The response rate was 19.1% (AAPOR RR 4); the coopera-
tion rate was 31.9% (AAPOR CR4). The data were weighted to adjust for
age, education, nonresponse, and attrition. For the standard definitions of the
American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), see:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 121
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Figure 1.
Model of the belief-knowledge gap framework, including research findings about characteristics of
conservatives and liberals.
services, and attitudes toward gay marriage, and then a block of
interactions. Scientific evidence indicates that sexual orienta-
tion cannot be changed11. The interactions included education
by ideology, income by ideology, education by religious service
observance, and income by religious service attendance. The
significant predictors were higher household incomes, female
gender, perceiving the Bible as written by people and only
partly or not at all the word of God literally, attending religious
services less frequently, favoring gay marriage, and a positive
interaction of education and attending religious services.
Table 2 presents a somewhat different picture with regard to
belief in evolution12. Beliefs were regressed on the same blocks
as in Table 1, except that the third block contained a different
opinion variable, concerning teaching creationism in schools.
The variables that predict belief in evolution were younger age,
white race, higher education, liberal ideology, Democratic party
identification, tendency to interpret the Bible less literally, less
frequent attendance of religious services, negative interaction of
education with ideology and also negative interaction of educa-
tion with attending religious services.
The variables that predict belief in global warming, which
the preponderance of scientific evidence supports13, shown in
Table 3, were older age, female gender, being less educated,
Democratic partisanship, interpreting the Bible less literally,
and believing that stricter environmental laws and regulations
are worth the cost.
The variables that predict belief that human activities cause
global warming, the view that most scientists accept as sup-
ported by research, were higher education, liberal ideology,
Democratic partisanship, believing that stricter laws and regu-
lations are worth the financial cost, and a positive interaction of
household income with frequency of attending religious ser-
vices (Table 4).
Table 5 presents additional variables from a different sur-
vey14 that make a difference in attitudes concerning support for
gays and lesbians being able to adopt children. The variables
that predict support for homosexual couples’ adoption of chil-
dren were younger age, female gender, higher education, liberal
ideology, Democratic partisanship, less literal interpretation of
the Bible, lower attendance of religious services, lower au-
13Selected references on the scientific evidence for global warming can be
found here:
14The data are from the 2008 American National Election Study, conducted
face-to-face September 2 through November 3, 2008 (N = 2322), with fol-
low-up interviews November 5-December 30, 2008 (N = 2102). The re-
sponse rate for the pre-election phase was 78.2% (RR5, as defined by
AAPOR—see note 10). The post-election response rate was 57.7%. The
data were weighted to adjust for age, education, nonresponse, and attrition.
11Evidence that sexual orientation cannot be changed can be accessed here: r ess/r eleases/2009/08/therapeutic.aspx.
12Selected references on the scientific evidence for evolution are found here: ed ia_SI/nmnh/evolve.htm.
Table 1.
Logistic regression analysis of beliefs about whether or not sexual orientation can be changed.
Do you think a gay or lesbian person’s sexual orientation can be changed or cannot be changed? (0 = “yes,” 1 = “no”a)
Predictors ß SE ß Walds χ2 df p Exp(ß) (odds ratio)
Constant .596 .770 .599 1 .439
Age .008 .006 1.676 1 .195 1.008
Income .126 .050 6.381 1 .012 1.135
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) .656 .200 10.773 1 .001 1.927
Race (1 = white, 0 = nonwhite) .214 .252 .722 1 .395 .807
Block 1 χ2 45.357 4 .001
Education .042 .091 .211 1 .646 1.043
Ideology (high = liberal) .204 .118 3.007 1 .083 1.227
Party affiliation (high = Democrat) .060 .063 .889 1 .346 1.061
Block 2 χ2 59.167 3 .001
Interpretation of the Bibleb .718 .168 18.346 1 .001 2.051
Religiosityc .275 .070 15.479 1 .001 .760
Attitude toward gay marriaged .552 .115 22.898 1 .001 .576
Block 3 χ2 121.001 3 .001
Education by Ideology .125 .112 1.248 1 .264 1.134
Income by Ideology .052 .111 .216 1 .642 1.053
Education by Religiosity .317 .124 6.493 1 .011 1.373
Income by Religiosity .023 .117 .040 1 .842 1.024
Block 4 χ2 11.569 4 .021
Tests χ2 df p
Overall model evaluation:
Likelihood ratio test
Goodness-of-fit test
Hosmer & Lemeshow 10.047 8 .262
Cox & Snell R2 .301
Nagelkerke R2 .403
Note: N = 644 (weighted). aScientific evidence supports the hypothesis that sexual orientation can be changed seldom or never; bLower scores = interpretation literally as
the word of God, higher scores = less literal interpretation; cHigher scores mean greater frequency of attending religious services; dLower scores = approval of gay marriage,
higher scores = disapproval.
thoritarianism, lower opinionation, greater ability to see both
sides of an argument, and a positive interaction of income with
The overall picture that emerges from these tables is that,
while there is some variation in results, it is not a matter of one
variable such as education being more important than another,
such as ideology. Certain variables work together to define
publics that are characterized by higher education, tendencies
toward liberalism and Democratic partisanship, and lower re-
ligiosity, and others that are characterized by higher religiosity,
greater conservatism, and greater Republican partisanship.
There are no surprises here, as other research has demonstrated.
One can concentrate on the divisions between these groups, or
one can look for ways in which communication can be framed
by the opposing group’s values, for example. Working to pre-
vent global warming can be presented as patriotism to preserve
natural resources and the American way of life (Feygina, Jost,
& Goldsmith, 2010) and a religious value to provide steward-
ship of natural resources.
People’s belief-knowledge derives from a complex set of
vantage points, depending upon family structure and interaction
patterns, social and cultural networks and structure, psycho-
logical make-up and values, assumptions about the way the
world works, and even genetic traits and neurological process-
ing, to name a few. Carney, Jost, Gosling, & Potter (2008, pp.
835-836) observed: “Political orientation appears to pervade
almost every aspect of our public and private lives, possibly
now more than in recent decades...” Scientists and others who
believe in the scientific method have one way of testing
knowledge in the hope of approaching truth, and some other
social segments rely on other methods, such as religious faith.
The multitude of differences makes it very easy for different
groups to disrespect each other. In fact, the divisions sometimes
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 123
Table 2.
Logistic regression analysis of beliefs about evolution.
Some people think that humans and other living things have evolved over time. Others think that humans and other living things have existed in their present
form since the beginning of time. Which of these comes closest to your view? [order of alternatives was rotated] (0 = “existed in present form,” 1 = “evolved
over time”a)
Predictors ß SE ß Walds χ2 df p Exp(ß) (odds ratio)
Constant 3.502 .654 28.718 1 .001
Age .014 .006 5.501 1 .019 .987
Income .074 .048 2.332 1 .127 .929
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) .283 .187 2.275 1 .131 1.327
Race (1 = white, 0 = nonwhite) .636 .260 5.983 1 .014 .530
Block 1 χ2 23.911 4 .001
Education .431 .094 20.846 1 .001 1.539
Ideology (high = liberal) .406 .116 12.227 1 .001 1.501
Party affiliation (high = Democrat) .134 .061 4.850 1 .028 1.144
Block 2 χ2 113.222 3 .001
Interpretation of the Bibleb .229 .163 57.123 1 .001 3.419
Religiosityc .141 .068 4.268 1 .039 .869
Teaching creationism with evolution in schoolsd .280 .202 1.926 1 .165 .756
Block 3 χ2 97.719 3 .001
Education by Ideology .254 .117 4.689 1 .030 .775
Income by Ideology .055 .114 .233 1 .630 1.057
Education by Religiosity .398 .130 9.366 1 .002 .672
Income by Religiosity .050 .110 .208 1 .648 .951
Block 4 χ2 18.358 4 .001
Tests χ2 df p
Overall model evaluation: Likelihood ratio test 253.210 14 .001
Goodness-of-fit test
Hosmer & Lemeshow 12.341 8 .137
Cox & Snell R2 .300
Nagelkerke R2 .401
Note: N = 703 (weighted). aScientific evidence supports the theory of evolution; bLower scores = interpretation literally as the word of God, higher scores = less literal
interpretation; cHigher scores mean greater frequency of attending religious services; d1 = favor, 0 = oppose.
are so stark that resolving the conflicts between them can be a
daunting task. These groups seek to control knowledge defini-
tion and dissemination, and they differ in the ways they value
various kinds of knowledge. In fact, they increasingly seek to
control the political system rather than to work out differences
(Abramowitz & Saunders, 2005; Hindman, 2009; Hindman &
Yan, 2012; Shapiro & Bloch-Elkon, 2008).
What are the long-term sociopolitical consequences of in-
creasing acrimony between groups divided by ideology?
Americans need to be alarmed at the degree of polarization and
aspects of the political system that allow it to be entrenched
(Mann & Ornstein, 2012; Nisbet & Scheufele, 2012), while
recognizing that differences between conservatives and liberals
can bring balance to policy outcomes (Jost, 2006). Haidt and
Graham (2007) stated (p. 110): “We in psychology, and in aca-
deme more generally, have a tendency to reject conservative
concerns related to ingroup, authority, and purity as ‘bad’ on
the grounds that they often conflict with the ‘good’ moralities
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 3.
Logistic regression analysis of beliefs about evidence of global warming.
From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades,
or not? (0 = “no,” 1 = “yes”a)
Predictors ß SE ß Walds χ2 df p Exp(ß) (odds ratio)
Constant 2.043 .769 7.061 1 .008
Age .015 .007 4.928 1 .026 1.015
Income .082 .054 2.288 1 .130 1.086
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) .496 .219 5.131 1 .023 1.648
Race (1 = white, 0 = nonwhite) .508 .314 2.619 1 .106 1.662
Block 1 χ2 16.241 4 .003
Education .213 .107 3.992 1 .046 .808
Ideology (high = liberal) .101 .133 .580 1 .446 1.106
Party affiliation (high = Democrat) .194 .072 7.261 1 .007 1.215
Block 2 χ2 28.057 3 .001
Interpretation of the Bibleb .606 .198 9.313 1 .002 1.833
Religiosityc .142 .085 2.795 1 .095 1.153
Attitude toward stricter environmental lawsd 1.016 .220 21.247 1 .001 2.763
Block 3 χ2 37.066 3 .001
Education by Ideology .098 .125 .621 1 .431 1.104
Income by Ideology .155 .129 1.444 1 .229 1.167
Education by Religiosity .104 .138 .563 1 .453 .901
Income by Religiosity .140 .125 1.260 1 .262 .869
Block 4 χ2 8.448 4 .076
Tests χ2 df p
Overall model evaluation: Likelihood ratio test 89.812 14 .001
Goodness-of-fit test
Hosmer & Lemeshow 5.980 8 .649
Cox & Snell R2 .117
Nagelkerke R2 .193
Note: N = 714 (weighted). aScientific evidence supports a hypothesis of global warming; bLower scores = interpretation as the word of God, higher scores = less literal
interpretation; cHigher scores mean greater frequency of attending religious services; d1 = Stricter laws and regulations are worth the cost, 0 = cost too many jobs and hurt
the economy.
of harm and fairness.” They argued that unless liberals and
conservatives can comprehend each other’s differences in defi-
nitions, values, and moral motivations, they cannot work to-
gether to achieve their desired goals.
The Gaziano and Gaziano (1999, 2009) belief-knowledge
gap framework treats ideology as a multidimensional concept
and maintains that social and political groups differ in a multi-
tude of ways that can make conservatives and liberals appear to
be two different cultures15. The level of analysis is collective,
rather than individual, a main tenet is that beliefs are knowl-
edge, and the unit of analysis is belief-knowledge differences
between ideological segments of social subsystems. Conserva-
tives and liberals tend to define belief-knowledge differently.
This perspective allows for approaching ideology from a
standpoint of understanding differences. Variables that figured
prominently in knowledge gap studies may or may not be rele-
vant to investigation on belief-knowledge. New investigations
could examine some of these. Some examples of hypotheses and
research questions for future research are shown as followed.
Examples of Hypotheses
1) The greater the level of perceived conflict in an issue, the
greater the belief-knowledge gap between conservatives and
15Another question is the effect on political moderates in times of threat,
such as economic or national threat. Political moderates deserve more re-
search since they are a large enough group to affect social policy; thus far,
little research exists on them (Treier & Hillygus, 2009).
2) The greater the level of organized group activity on an is-
sue, the greater the belief-knowledge gap between conserva-
tives and liberals.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 125
Table 4.
Logistic regression analysis of beliefs about the causes of global warming: human activity or natural patterns.
Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels or mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s
environment? [order of alternatives was rotated] (0 = “natural patterns,” 1 = “human activity”a)
Predictors ß SE ß Walds χ2 df p Exp(ß) (odds ratio)
Constant 3.220 .772 17.408 1 .001
Age .001 .006 .040 1 .841 .999
Income .043 .052 .673 1 .412 .958
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) .287 .212 1.833 1 .176 1.333
Race (1 = white, 0 = nonwhite) .321 .268 1.438 1 .230 1.379
Block 1 χ2 8.461 4 .076
Education .277 .096 8.336 1 .004 1.319
Ideology (high = liberal) .305 .127 5.785 1 .016 1.356
Party affiliation (high = Democrat) .193 .066 8.608 1 .003 1.213
Block 2 χ2 53.503 3 .001
Interpretation of the Bibleb .304 .179 2.895 1 .089 1.355
Religiosityc .082 .083 .965 1 .326 1.085
Attitude toward stricter environmental lawsd 1.035 .214 23.404 1 .001 2.814
Block 3 χ2 32.483 3 .001
Education by Ideology .102 .119 .732 1 .392 1.107
Income by Ideology .040 .124 .103 1 .749 .961
Education by Religiosity .096 .128 .564 1 .453 .908
Income by Religiosity .346 .127 7.482 1 .006 1.414
Block 4 χ2 11.214 4 .024
Tests χ2 df p
Overall model evaluation: Likelihood ratio test
Goodness-of-fit test
Hosmer & Lemeshow 8.413 8 .394
Cox & Snell R2 .170
Nagelkerke R2 .238
Note: N = 541 (weighted). aScientific evidence supports a hypothesis of human causes; bLower scores = Interpret as the word of God, higher scores = less literal interpreta-
tion; cHigher scores mean greater frequency of attending religious services; d1 = Stricter laws and regulations are worth the cost, 0 = cost too many jobs and hurt the
3) The greater the insularity of specific media access and use,
the greater the belief-knowledge gap between conservatives and
liberals. Insularity means homogeneity of ideology among
communication media.
4) The greater the insularity of membership in organized
groups, the greater the belief-knowledge gap between conser-
vatives and liberals.
5) The greater the insularity of interpersonal networks, the
greater the belief-knowledge gap between conservatives and
6) Levels of education and income will interact with the
magnitude of belief-knowledge gaps such that groups possess-
ing lower education and higher income will have more conser-
vative definitions of belief-knowledge.
7) Levels of religiosity and education will interact such that
higher religiosity and lower education will be related to con-
servative definitions of belief-knowledge and lower religiosity
and higher education will be related to liberal definitions of
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Table 5.
Logistic regression analysis of beliefs about allowing gay men and lesbians to adopt children.
Do you think gay or lesbian couples, in other words, homosexual couples, should be legally permitted to adopt children? (1 = “yes,” 0 = “no”)
Predictors ß SE ß Walds χ2 df p Exp(ß) (odds ratio)
Constant 3.030 .649 21.802 1 .001
Age .025 .004 41.715 1 .001 .975
Income .003 .012 .079 1 .779 1.003
Gender (1 = male, 0 = female) .646 .136 22.555 1 .001 1.908
Race (1 = white, 0 = nonwhite) .200 .183 1.203 1 .273 1.222
Block 1 χ2 125.605 4 .001
Education .116 .033 12.212 1 .001 1.123
Ideology (high = liberal) .278 .059 22.504 1 .001 1.321
Party affiliation (high = Democrat) .120 .040 9.128 1 .003 1.127
Block 2 χ2 223.516 3 .001
Interpretation of the Biblea .779 .114 46.930 1 .001 2.179
Religiosityb .204 .046 19.701 1 .001 .816
Authoritarian child rearing values score .185 .066 8.004 1 .005 .831
How many opinions R has .184 .078 5.582 1 .018 .832
How often R can see two disagreeing parties as
both being right .225 .076 8.653 1 .003 1.252
Block 3 χ2 170.596 5 .001
Education by Ideology .035 .081 .188 1 .665 1.036
Income by Ideology .157 .072 4.791 1 .029 1.170
Education by Religiosity .126 .076 4.726 1 .099 .882
Income by Religiosity .042 .080 .278 1 .598 .959
Block 4 χ2 11.779 4 .019
Tests χ2 df p
Overall model evaluation: Likelihood ratio test 531.495 16 .001
Goodness-of-fit test
Hosmer & Lemeshow 5.505 8 .702
Cox & Snell R2 .305
Nagelkerke R2 .407
Note: N = 1368 (weighted). aLower scores = Interpretation as the word of God, higher scores = less literal interpretation; bHigher scores mean greater frequency of attend-
ing religious services.
8) As polarization between conservatives and liberals in-
creases, income inequality within the society will increase over
time, as suggested by McCarty et al. (2006).
9) Since well-educated conservatives tend to have higher in-
comes than well-educated liberals, who make up a smaller
proportion of the citizenry, income inequality will increase
between the better-educated conservatives and the better-edu-
cated liberals.
Examples o f R es earch Ques tions
1) Does size of collectivity, such as a community or a society,
make a difference in the magnitude of belief-knowledge gaps?
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 127
2) Does complexity (homogeneity or heterogeneity) of col-
lectivity make a difference in the magnitude of belief-knowl-
edge gaps?
3) Does level of issue impact on the collectivity affect mag-
nitude of belief-knowledge gaps?
4) Does level of issue importance on the individual level in-
fluence magnitude of belief-knowledge gaps?
5) Does the number of economic and political power bases in
the collectivity, such as a community or a society, influence the
magnitude of belief-knowledge gaps? Pluralistic communities
can handle more intensive conflict with their increased numbers
of information outlets and power bases than can smaller, more
homogeneous communities (Donohue et al., 1975; Tichenor,
Donohue, & Olien, 1980; Tichenor, Rodenkirchen, Olien, &
Donohue, 1973).
6) Does this hold for belief-knowledge gaps if the scope (lo-
cal, state, regional, or national) of issues varies?
7) What about comparisons when the communication vari-
able is information available in the social system, either gener-
ally, during community debates on issues, or in information
campaigns, as compared with exposure or attention on the indi-
vidual level?16
8) What about the character of information networks (inter-
personal, organized group, media) and the amount and type of
access to specific types of networks?
9) Under what conditions can belief-knowledge gaps be nar-
rowed or closed?
10) What does it take for liberals and conservatives to change
their focus from winning at any cost to working together to
solve problems?
When ideological conflicts are viewed as tensions between
cultures, it is possible to adopt a more anthropological assess-
ment, as many would in addressing conflicts between racial,
ethnic, or cultural groups in communities or within or between
nations. Instead of demonizing the other culture, one can begin
to frame solutions by accepting the other as valid, by trying to
understand the differences, and by appealing to the other cul-
tural groups’ values, conceptual systems (Ecklund & Scheitle,
2007; Lakoff, 1996), mores, and social life (Haidt & Graham,
2007). Scientists with religious affiliations can help to bridge
divisions between ideological groups when religiosity plays a
role and can “productively contribute to dialogue about what
distinguishes scientific and religious claims” (Ecklund &
Scheitle, 2007). An important question for future consideration
is how the interests and beliefs of conservatives and liberals, as
well as moderates, can be addressed to improve social and po-
litical system functioning instead of driving them further apart.
I thank Emanuel (Manny) Gaziano, information consultant
and programmer at, of Minneapolis, Minnesota,
USA, for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
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