“that social need drives the interpretation of academic findings”

Thomas Prosser:

Admittedly, this is not always the case. In little time, the discovery of the Omicron variant has instigated major societal change, reflecting its lethal potential. But normally, the process is inverse. This occurs at macro level, epochal needs determiningparadigms, and micro level, inconvenient findings (e.g. those on partisanship) being discarded. Often, controversial results meet this fate, several inconvenient findings about race and sex being absent from public debate. Consequently, notions of being ‘led by evidence’ are suspect. Undoubtedly, academic evidence should be at the heart of policymaking. Yet those who propose this often misunderstand complexities.

Secondly, this phenomenon demonstrates alternative foundations of political behaviour. Given weak links with policy outcomes, the politically engaged have other motivations. Comparison with sports fans is useful. At one level, sports fandom shows how people behave when consequences are insignificant; all agree that the strict outcome of a sports match is trivial. But even without real world stakes, tribal behaviours still thrive. These sentiments tend not to be as strong as political rivalries, hooliganism aside(!), yet many fans have negative views of opposing teams. As a Swansea fan, I cannot purge a feeling that Cardiff fans are the enemy, despite living in Cardiff for over a decade! I blame my father. The foundations of this are primal, meaning that my conversations with myself (‘your friends support Cardiff!’; ‘your daughter was born in Cardiff!’) are fruitless.