In my experience the relationship conservatives and liberals have with evidence is quite different. Having been a conservative that has transitioned to a liberal my relationship to evidence has changed. I want to talk about why I think that is.
Many people raised as evangelicals have a very black and white view of the world and I was no different. There's God and the devil. Good and evil. I'm on God's side naturally so the things I and fellow God believers think are naturally the God view of the world and the opposite would be the devil's view. So what is my approach to evidence? It's one characterized by confirmation bias. I already know the answer. I go to the evidence to confirm what I already know. Why even bother going to the evidence? A lot of work and nothing to show for it. We already know the answer. Be on the side of good, not the side of evil.
The difference between me though and typical people is that I enjoyed debating with others. So I did read books from the other side to understand their arguments. I never read thinking my opinion would change. I read already knowing they were wrong but wanting to be able to refute them better. I can thank my friend HP for opening my eyes a bit. I read his Catholic sources (I was Protestant) and was surprised to discover that Catholic views sometimes made sense from their perspective. This rattled me. I started to come to understand that I should treat evidence differently. First go to the evidence. Then formulate a conclusion.
I think you can see that here on my blog. For instance you didn't see me claim that Obama would win the presidency. You don't see me claim that the Hostess bankruptcy was due to bad management. You don't see me claim that on net Romney destroyed jobs. Whether I believe those things or not I'm not familiar enough with the evidence to make that kind of a judgment. If I haven't looked at the evidence how would I know?
But conservatives know. Conservatives tell us that Romney created jobs and unions are to blame at Hostess. Global warming either isn't happening or isn't man made. Or if it is we shouldn't worry about it. Where is the evidence for these claims? Often none comes. Other times rationalizations comes, but not in the form of evidence. Conservative economists have devised means of providing arguments. But they aren't evidence based. They create stories.
Take a look at this one (via HP). Wal-Mart workers should be grateful they are paid so poorly. If they were paid more this would harm them. Well, that seems pretty strange. What evidence is offered? We could look to evidence. What happened when Henry Ford raised wages well above what they had been? Did the poor suffer? Or when 40 hour work weeks, weekends, and safe working conditions were earned after years of struggle. Did this harm the poor? There are so many countries we can look to that have been subjected to even lower wages than what you see at Wal-Mart. Wages that don't threaten to displace them with higher skilled people. Has this helped bring them out of poverty? These are the kinds of things one would look to if he was interested in proving a claim like this with evidence.
In fact what we get is nothing of the sort. It just makes sense to the conservative economist. Higher wages would attract people with better skills, displacing the poor and leading to their suffering. No need to look at what actually happened. We've crafted a story that makes sense to us. The evidence is no longer needed.
This is coming from the same Bryan Caplan that says if you have a problem with high CEO salaries the solution is to worship them. Sing songs to them. Praise them. What really is in the best interest of the poor is more ass kissing to the rich and lower wages for the poor.
Also for Caplan democracy is horrible. The masses are asses. The evidence is not that they are wrong. The evidence is that they disagree with economists. The people that say lower wages for the poor and more ass kissing to the rich is the real path towards helping poor people. There's no evidence needed. It just makes sense to Bryan Caplan. It's so strange that the poor don't understand they are better off with low wages. They don't understand these sophisticated things.
I provide a lot of data at this blog. Plenty of links to sources. I plan to keep doing that. But I truly think for many conservatives it just doesn't matter. Evidence just doesn't move them. The conclusion is the starting point. You can go to evidence to justify that conclusion or failing that just craft stories that may or may not apply to the real world. I think that's how the Republican brain works and I think that partly because I think that's how my brain worked.