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Opinion
Cass R. Sunstein

Why Political Partisans Don't Like Facts

Political partisans -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- ignore the facts around pivotal issues because of their respective value systems.
This snack has been approved by the Democratic Party. Photographer: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
This snack has been approved by the Democratic Party. Photographer: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

To paraphrase an observation attributed to the late Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, people are entitled to their own opinions, not to their own facts. But on some politically charged issues, people's ideological commitments sometimes settle their judgments about questions of fact.

A revealing body of research, coming largely from Yale Law School professorDan Kahan, finds that "cultural cognition" shapes our reactions to science -- and that our values affect our assessment of purely factual claims, even in highly technical areas. As a result, Americans predictably polarize on factual questions involving, for example, the effects of gun control, nuclear waste disposal and nanotechnology.