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Political Ideology, Confidence in Science, and Participation in Alzheimer Disease Research Studies

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Americans’ confidence in science varies based on their political ideology. This ideological divide has potentially important effects on citizens’ engagement with and participation in clinical studies of Alzheimer disease (AD).


A probability sample of 1583 Americans was surveyed about their willingness to participate in longitudinal AD research and about their political attitudes. These survey results were compared with a survey of 382 participants in a longitudinal AD study at the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center.


Among Americans, more conservative ideology decreases willingness to participate in a hypothetical longitudinal cohort study of AD both directly and through its negative effect on confidence in science. The Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center study participants expressed more liberal ideology and greater confidence in science than Americans in general. Of the survey respondents opposed to participation, over a quarter changed to neutral or positive if the study returned their research results to them.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Clinical studies of AD are likely biased toward participants who are more liberal and have higher confidence in science than the general population. This recruitment bias may be reduced by lowering the trust demanded of participants through measures such as returning research results to participants.
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Keywords: longitudinal cohort studies; political ideology; recruitment of study subjects; trust in science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, Departments of Political Science 2: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 3: Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, Neurology 4: Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center 5: Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, Neurology, Pathology and Immunology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy of the School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Publication date: July 1, 2018

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