In the United States, liberals and conservatives disagree about facts. To what extent does expertise attenuate these disagreements? To study this question, we compare the polarization of beliefs about COVID-19 treatments among laypeople and critical care physicians. We find that political ideology predicts both groups’ beliefs about a range of COVID-19 treatments. These associations persist after controlling for a rich set of covariates, including local politics. We study two potential explanations: a) that partisans are exposed to different information and b) that they interpret the same information in different ways, finding evidence for both. Polarization is driven by preferences for partisan cable news but not by exposure to scientific research. Using a set of embedded experiments, we demonstrate that partisans perceive scientific evidence differently when it pertains to a politicized treatment (ivermectin), relative to when the treatment is not identified. These results highlight the extent to which political ideology is increasingly relevant for understanding beliefs, even among expert decision makers such as physicians.
Levin, Joel M., Leigh A. Bukowski, Julia A. Minson, and Jeremy M. Kahn. "The political polarization of COVID-19 treatments among physicians and laypeople in the United States." PNAS 120.7 (February 14, 2023): e2216179120.