Saturday, April 28, 2007

NYTimes/CBS Poll: Warming is real, not sure what to do about it

A new poll conducted by the New York Times and CBS News reaffirms what the three previous polls discussed here say: the public overwhelmingly thinks global warming is real and a problem. The confusion is over what to do about it. This is another phone poll of about 1000 adults but this one was conducted very recently- April 20-24. Among the findings:
  • 84% of Americans see human activity as at least contributing to warming.
  • 90% of Democrats, 80% of independents and 60% of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the warming of the atmosphere and deal with its effects on the global climate. 19% said it was not necessary to act now, and 1% said no steps were needed.
  • 52% said that generally speaking they would support protecting the environment over stimulating the economy.

Note that Democrats and Republicans were based on self-identification "do you consider yourself a...". They weren't asked if they were party members.

Its interesting to contrast this result with the National Journal poll of members of Congress which Jonathan Chait wrote about in the LA Times. It showed a deep divide among Congressmen by party with only 13% of Republicans agreeing that global warming is caused by humans and that gap grew in less than a year (original poll here). That poll and these other four show something that is obvious to anyone following politics: members of Congress aren't a good proxy for the general public. Can you say "sample bias"? Also the National Journal poll was taken before the IPCC press blitz.

Also consider this Pew center poll which inspired Nisbet and Mooney's framing article in Science (I'll have more on that later.) It was taken in January of 2007, before the AR4 Working Group I report was released.

We'll see what similar polls say in a year but it appears that the IPCC AR4 reports, and their publicity, have really changed the debate. The public is no longer listening to the deniers and contrarians about the reality of global warming. That doesn't mean we should relax. But scientists who are engaging the public should separate questions/confusion about the science vs. questions/confusion about the response.

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