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A protester holds a sign during a tea party IRS demonstration on May 21, 2013 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images. A protester holds a sign during a tea party IRS demonstration on May 21, 2013 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images.  

Prof sets out to prove tea partiers are stupid, admits he was wrong

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Robby Soave
Reporter

A Yale University professor conducted a cross-analysis of intelligence and political affiliation, expecting to find that people who identified with the tea party knew less about science than the average person.

Instead, he discovered the opposite: tea party members have higher than average rates of scientific comprehension.

That may come as no surprise to members of the movement, which champions limited government and the Constitution. But what will shock tea partiers is this: Not only did the professor publicize the results, but he readily admitted that he had changed his pre-conceived notions about his political opponents.

Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale, took a data point that he described as “scientific comprehension” and cross-referenced it with different political affiliations. He found that in general, Democrats and liberals scored better than Republicans and conservatives. However, when he limited his analysis to people who self-identify with the Tea Party, he found them to be highly knowledgeable about science.

“Identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively … with scores on the science comprehension measure,” he wrote.

Kahan readily admitted that this result contradicted his expectations — he assumed that Tea Party members would score manifestly worst on measures of scientific knowledge.

“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising,” he wrote. “As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.”

Kahan also admitted that his pre-conceived notions about the Tea Party were based on what he heard from liberal media sources, such as MSNBC, the Huffington Post and the New York Times.

“I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party,” he wrote. “All my impressions come from watching cable TV — and I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the ‘paper.’”

Though Kahan said he still disagrees with the tea party’s philosophy, he can no longer explain away its adherents’ views by chalking them up to scientific ignorance.

Kahan’s willingness to reconsider his views about the tea party is a rare thing in academia. Students frequently encounter liberal professors who hold that view that supporters of limited government are ignorant, evil and racist. (RELATED: Prof on shutdown: Racist Republicans hate black president)

Kahan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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