Monday, September 27, 2004

Republicans and Democrats on Science Research

From a comment on my last post.
I think most computer scientists, even conservatives vote Democrat for one reason. Democrats fund the NSF, and the NSF gives us fat paychecks.
From discussion I have with other computer scientists, I don't find science funding a major factor in their voting decisions. On top of that the preface doesn't hold water. I went and computed the average yearly increase in the NSF budget during the tenures of the last several presidents.
  • Carter, 7.9%
  • Reagan, 11.0%
  • Bush Sr., 10.6%
  • Clinton, 7.6%
  • Bush Jr., 9.1%
The Democratic and Republican platforms have similar goals in scientific research though the Republican platform goes into more detail. From the Democratic Platform:
We will invest in the technologies of the future, from renewable energy to nanotechnology to biomedicine, and will work to make permanent the research and development tax credit. We will achieve universal access to broadband services, which could add $500 billion to our economy, generate 1.2 million jobs, and transform the way we learn and work. And we will put science ahead of ideology in research and policymaking.
The Republican Platform takes two pages to give the same ideas (except for that last sentence). Here is the section on Research and Development.
America's economy is undergoing a fundamental transition from one based primarily on manufacturing to one based on innovation, services, and ideas. Two-thirds of America's economic growth in the 1990s resulted from the introduction of new technology and 60 percent of the new jobs of the 21st century require post-secondary education, yet only one-third of America's workforce has achieved that level.

In order to maintain America's global leadership, Republicans have provided unprecedented support for federal research and development to help spur innovation. Federal R&D funding is up 44 percent from 2001 to $132 billion in 2005, which includes a 26 percent increase in support for basic research. The President has doubled the budget for the National Institutes of Health and increased the National Science Foundation budget by 30 percent. President Bush and the Republican Party also support making the R&D tax credit permanent.

The rapid pace of technological development demands that we remain on the leading edge of innovation and science. Republicans are committed to providing the investment and incentives needed to foster next generation technologies. The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bush, increased funding for nanotechnology research. In addition, the President has dedicated $1.7 billion over five years to develop hydrogen fuel cells and related next-generation energy technologies. The President's support for NASA and vision for space exploration will also enhance scientific development and technological breakthroughs.

In short the parties do not differ much on a future research investment. Both platforms also push science education. The Republicans have had a better historical record of science funding but Bush has come under fire for ignoring science in policy making. Better not to worry about science and use other factors in your choice of president.


  1. Mind you, you could do a nice chart (relative to GDP or in absolute dollars) of deficit spending, which would look similar. Clinton was the true fiscal conservative here.

    Also, nice to see my point about research being made by both parties: It's not a handout, it's one of the backbones of our economy.

  2. The idea that computer scientists are liberal because we are paid by liberals doesn't make sense.

    Liberals support taxing the rich (and computer science, even as a professor, isn't a low-earning profession).

    On a statewide basis, it tends to be the case that liberal states are the ones that get the least back per tax dollar. See, for example:
    Raw data here:

    I don't object to this, but greed as a liberal motivation doesn't seem likely.

  3. Did you normalize these rate increases to account for inflation? I've a hunch that both the Reagan and Bush I figures are higher due to the inflation rates during their administrations.

  4. I've solved it: Academia in general is more "liberal" because they are only more liberal in comparison to the general population. The reasoning is as follows:

    It's safe to assume that those in academia, computer science included, are generally well educated, and more knowledgeable about issues, including politics and policy. But the pursuit of knowledge doesn't lead people to the left; it leads them to the center. Further, our country specifically is more to the right than Europe. Some who we call "leftists" would actually be considered "rightist" in Briton, for example. Thus, the ideological equilibrium of a centrist point of view looks liberal in America.

    Another important issue is an awareness of diversity, particularly other cultures. This leads to a more culturally sensitive point of view (and, hopefully, less toward xenophobia, which I think those on the hard right and the hard left are both guilty of).