In the United States, the wide ideological divergence in public confidence in science poses a potentially significant problem for the scientific enterprise. We examine the behavioral consequences of this ideological divide for Americans’ contributions to medical research. Based on a mass survey of American adults, we find that engagement in a wide range of medical research activities is a function of a latent propensity to participate. The propensity is systematically higher among liberals than among conservatives. A substantial part of this ideological divide is due to conservative Americans’ lower confidence in science. These findings raise important issues for the recruitment of subjects for medical studies and the generalizability of results from such studies.