Reader survey results: Science vs. social science vs. humanities

By Razib Khan | July 25, 2010 11:51 am

About six months ago I did a survey of the readership of my two Gene Expression blogs (before moving to Discover). The N was around 600. You can view the raw frequency results here. One of the issues which I was curious about: did the disciplinary background of readers have any major correlates with responses? So I created three categories from the data on disciplines:

-Social Science
-Not Science

Social science had its own section, but for science I amalgamated those who studies Math, Engineering, Natural Science and Medicine. The balance were under “Not science.”

Not Science Social Science Natural Science
How long have been reading Gene Expression(s) regularly?
No more than 4 weeks 5 5 5
1 to 6 months 12 13 14
6 months to 12 months 12 15 13
1 to 2 years 20 22 22
2 to 4 years 33 26 22
More than 4 years 18 19 20
What is your highest educational level attained?
Did not complete secondary school 1 0 0
Secondary school 0 0 0
Some post-secondary education, incomplete 5 1 1
Post secondary education, but not a university degree holder 4 2 1
University degree holder 38 33 37
Masters degree 20 22 20
Professional graduate degree (law, medicine, etc.) 20 12 11
Graduate degree (science, humanities, etc.) 13 29 30
What is your subjective socioeconomic status?
Lower class 5 3 3
Lower middle class 15 15 9
Middle class 42 43 47
Upper middle class 34 31 35
Upper class 4 7 5
What is your belief about the nature of God?
I believe in theistic God(s) 12 6 11
I believe in deistic God(s) 8 8 5
I believe in a Higher Power 5 5 6
I am skeptical of the existence of God(s) 24 23 22
I do not believe in the existence of God(s) 51 56 57
What is your racial identity?
European ancestry (white) 75 84 82
East Asian 3 5 2
South Asian 3 1 7
Southeast Asian 1 1 1
African ancestry (black) 2 2 1
Middle Eastern 2 1 2
Mixed 6 5 4
Other 9 3 1
What is your sex?
Male 84 86 87
Female 15 14 13
Other 1 0 1
Which of the following characterizes your general politics:
Far Left 5 6 1
Left 13 15 18
Center Left 16 18 21
Center 4 5 4
Center Right 9 6 11
Right 13 16 12
Far Right 3 6 3
Libertarian 21 22 25
Other 16 6 3
Do you consider yourself sympathetic to transhumanism?
No 22 25 12
Yes 32 33 40
No idea 29 28 29
Don’t care 17 14 20
Have you ever had sexual intercourse?
Yes 88 94 88
No 10 4 11
? 2 2 1
Personality type in terms of shyness you are:
Very extroverted 0 5 2
Extroverted 7 12 6
Somewhat extroverted 20 21 18
Somewhat introverted 38 36 41
Introverted 28 26 25
Very Introverted 6 5 8
Attitudes toward abortion:
Support abortion rights on demand 41 41 44
Support abortion rights, but with some constraints 39 39 41
Support ban on abortion, but with some exceptions 14 15 5
Support ban on abortion 6 5 10
Have you taken calculus?
Yes 73 81 97
No 27 19 3
Race is:
A social construct, not a biological reality 10 11 10
A biological reality, not a social construct 17 18 18
Both a social construct and a biological reality 74 71 72
IQ measures:
Something real which we refer to as intelligence 61 63 58
Ability to take a particular type of test 18 18 27
Who knows? 21 20 15
What is the heritability of IQ among groups in the West which are middle class and above?
Less than 0.3 6 3 4
0.3 to 0.5 20 21 22
0.5 to 0.7 44 54 43
More than 0.7 29 21 31

Turns out there’s no big difference, except for in calculus. A particular type of person must be attracted to the substance and style of this weblog (I suspect the biggest substantive difference between the readership and myself is that I’m on the extroverted side). I’ll probably post a survey for tomorrow, mostly to see how much Discover has changed my readership. But periodically I’ll also look at the results for previous surveys like this.

Note: Some of the results do not add to 100% because I rounded.

MORE ABOUT: Reader Survey, Survey
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  • EcoPhysioMichelle

    Out of curiosity, why did you not include a hispanic/latino racial category?

  • Razib Khan

    because it’s an ethnic, not racial, category. also, i’m obviously americo-centric, but it makes most sense to americans in a particular way. europeans would probably be confused why hispanics (spaniards) are bracketed out from all other europeans.

  • EcoPhysioMichelle

    I suppose under that rationale most latinos would be considered of mixed race, then, since they’re a combination of indigenous (Asian of some sort most likely, I’m not up to date on the most recent theory of which Asian group(s) populated the Americas), African, and European lineages for the most part?

  • Razib Khan

    yes. though many latin american elites self-define as white and could easily pass, as could most of the population of argentina, chile and much of brazil (i’ve blogged on the non-trivial admixture of non-white ancestry among the whites of these nations, so with caution). and many black brazilians are becoming more assertive about their african origins.

  • Joshua Zelinsky

    I’m surprised at in general how small a fraction of readers are female. I’m both surprised and disturbed by the large fraction of people in the social sciences who haven’t taken calculus; I don’t know how they are able to talk to natural science people almost all without that. I’m really curious how the natural science people who haven’t taken calculus function, and what they do.

  • EcoPhysioMichelle

    Calculus isn’t entirely necessary for natural sciences. Physics and chemistry, yes, but not as much for most biological fields. I’m a physiologist and while I did take calculus, it was over 7 years ago and I haven’t had to use it since. I suppose it depends on the amount of theory and/or modeling your work requires.

  • Razib Khan

    joshua is a math guy. explains his shock & surprise :-)

  • EcoPhysioMichelle

    That’s understandable. I am often confused as to how many people can be so clueless as to how their own bodies work.

    Also w/r/t girls being a small fraction, I think that’s because (at least in my experience) the majority of female bloggers/blog readers tend to prefer talking about being a scientist rather than talking about science itself. There are obvious exceptions, of course.

  • Joshua Zelinsky

    Razib, yeah, that’s obviously part of it; I’m probably not the only person who overestimates the importance of my own field. However, I suspect that a fair number of people are also using theorems from calculus without actually realizing it (population genetics might be the obvious example where one doesn’t actually need to know much calculus as far as I can tell, but a lot of the standard formulas and results require calc to derive.)

  • Razib Khan

    joshua, mathematics is the most important domain of human inquiry in my opinion response was to give a context for your shock, since for you calculus is trivially easy, but for many biologists it is the last mathematics they take. that is, the most advanced!

  • Zora

    I recall one of my anthro professors, in grad school, boasting at the department’s success in getting the university to drop the statistics requirement for anthro students.

    This was at the height of the Foucalt-Derrida-Bourdieu craze, when we were supposed to be studying to be French philosophers, NOT scientists. One reason why I didn’t finish my PhD. I knew that much of what I was expected to admire was bogus, but I was too timid and confused to confront my professors.

    I took math much later, for the computer degree, and discovered, to my surprise, that I *liked* it. Including statistics.

  • toto

    Where we learn that social scientists are just as nerdy as real scientists, and that Browns don’t do social sciences (but East Asians do!)…

    Is there a particular reason why you didn’t offer a “both” option for the IQ question? I know, it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I noticed that you offer it for race.

  • bioIgnoramus

    How many, I wonder, confused “transhumanism” with “transhumance”?


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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