How Education Did (and Did Not) Accentuate Partisan Differences During the Ebola Outbreak of 2014-15


  • Chris C. Martin


Education exacerbates partisan gaps in scientific knowledge and attitudes. However, previous findings about the extent and symmetry of this moderation have been mixed. As a conceptual replication of previous research, this study examines whether education asymmetrically moderates the Democrat-Republican gap in attitudes about Ebola virus disease (EVD) and policies to combat EVD. Weighted data from a survey of 1,461 non-institutionalized adults drawn from a probability-based panel were collected during the 2015 EVD epidemic. The survey measured seven attitudes: fear of personal infection, estimated severity of Ebola, suspicion of exposed Africans, suspicion of exposed Americans, Western government preparedness, support for low-intensity interventions, and support for high-intensity interventions. Knowledge about EVD was also measured. As in prior studies, highly educated Democrats uniquely diverged from other respondents in some attitudes. However, in the other attitudes, there were main party and education effects but no evidence that education was a moderator of partisan differences. Overall, education moderated partisanship when attitudes were affect-laden and targeted toward immediate threats, but not when attitudes were policy-oriented.