Saturday, April 21, 2007

Two spins on one poll

One poll on climate change views was taken jointly by The Washington Post, ABC News and Stanford. The Post and ABC News then each did a story on it and comparing the two provides a good lesson on climate spin.

First look at the headline and sub-headline:
WPost: Growing Number of Americans see Warming as Leading Threat: Most Want U.S. to Act, But There Is No Consensus on How
ABCNews: Concern Soars About Global Warming as World's Top Environmental Threat: Increasing Numbers Believe Global Warming Is Caused by Humans and That Scientists Agree on It

In the Post it's a "growing number" while in ABCNews its "concern soars". The trends are up but did they grow or soar? I guess you need to look at a lot of these polls to tell. The rank of global warming in important environmental problems doubled in a year and is the clear number one. That sounds like "soaring" to me.

Consider the attribution question on what's causing the warming. 41% say the rise in temperatures is man made while 42% say its a mix of human and natural causes. The Post reported this as "Americans are also split on what causes global warming in the first place" while ABCNews "finds a 10-point increase in the belief that global warming is caused mostly by human activity (to 41 percent, up from 31 percent last year)". So is the trend more important or the current numbers? I'd say the trend considering the barrage of mis-information put out by the Right Wing Noise Machine.

The poll asked "
Do you think most scientists agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening, or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists on this issue?". In the Post, this result was a downer: "56 percent continue to think there is "a lot" of disagreement among scientists about climate change." While ABCNews accentuates the positive: "This...poll...finds....a significant decline — the first in a decade — in the belief that many scientists disagree on whether global warming is happening." The decline was from 64% to 56% in a year. Again, considering how much disinformation is out there, I see the glass as half full.

What's the takeaway lesson here? The Post is a conservative paper but we already knew that. Coupled with the Yale poll, I think we can be optimistic that the public is hearing through the noise.


Fergus said...

Hi, Rob,

In a neat piece of synchronicity, I've been covering the same issue, public opinion, but using different reports and media feedback, on my own modest blog. I'll add a link to this on my page. Yours looks like an interesting page; I'll tag it at some point, or whatever the term is.

Nice to find another kindred spirit.

Rob said...

Hi fergus,

Thanks. I'll check out your page and add you to my blog roll


inel said...

Hello Rob,

I was tempted to say "ditto" after seeing fergus got here first (and we have been comparing notes on public awareness of certain climate-related points recently).

Well, I made a picture for the kids to show them the numbers of IPCC scientists who have assessed the evidence and agree that "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal". These are set against the 28 climatologists that a skeptic told me he had "found" last week who think differently. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I added precisely twenty-eight dots to represent those in disagreement with the IPCC position.

You can see the result here. I get a lot of people searching for climate change visual aids and graphics on my blog, so I thought I'd create a few of my own to supplement the IPCC/NOAA ones that are popular.