Not All Education is Equally Liberal: The Effects of Science Education on Political Attitudes


  • Christine Ma-Kellams
  • Aida Rocci Ruiz
  • Jacqueline Lee
  • Andrea Madu


Education stands as a potent predictor of political attitudes; however, the underlying mechanisms and moderators of this relationship are not well-understood. We hypothesize that the liberalizing effect of education is moderated by discipline, and that the scientific ethos that serves to guide empirical inquiries facilitates the development of more liberal political attitudes via concerns about fairness and equality. As predicted, being educated in a science-related discipline, as opposed to a non-science discipline, was associated with greater political liberalism; importantly, this effect could not be accounted for by self-selection (Study 1). Furthermore, concerns about fairness and equality, as captured by an individual’s social dominance orientation, mediated the relationship between studying science and political liberalism (Study 2). Study 3 replicated these findings and attest to their generalizability. Study 4 directly assessed the underlying mechanism, endorsement of the scientific ethos, and replicated the mediational model; those who endorsed the scientific ethos more strongly reported more liberal political attitudes, and this was mediated by their lower social dominance orientation.