Media blows the story, again
A new Gallup poll finds Americans (accurately) believe global warming is due more to human activities than natural changes by 52% to 43%, up from 50 to 46 last year. Only 36% of Republicans acknowledge this.
The percentage who believe “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring” vs. “most scientists believe that global warming is NOT occurring” is 55 to 8, vs 52 to 10 just last year.
Some 51% personally worry a great deal or fair amount about the problem, almost precisely the percentage as last year (52%). Only 31% of Republicans worry that much about global warming.
But the media had a different take on the poll.
The CNN headline reads, “Poll: Global warming fears cooling,” and the lede is “Americans’ perceptions of the issue of global warming appear to be cooling.” The UPI story’s headline is “Americans’ concern over warming slips.” Why this spin?
Well, the Gallup poll headline is “In U.S., Concerns About Global Warming Stable At Lower Levels.” The last 3 words were Gallup’s gratuitous effort to make news out of a non-news story, which some in the media fell for.
Indeed, Gallup’s opening sentence notes, “Americans continue to express less concern about global warming than they have in the past, with 51% saying they worry a great deal or fair amount about the problem — although attitudes appear to have stabilized compared with last year.”
So there really isn’t any new trend here about how much Americans worry about global warming. In fact, Gallup itself offers two perfectly reasonable explanations for why those numbers are relatively low and flat:
The reasons for the decline in concern are not obvious, though the economic downturn could be a factor. Gallup has shown that environmental concerns tend to take a back seat to economic matters when the economy is in poor shape.
Another possibility is that Americans worry less about environmental concerns under Democratic presidents, who are generally rated higher on environmental protection than Republican presidents.
Also, other recent polls come to different conclusions, particularly when they phrase the questions differently (see “Stanford poll: The vast majority of Americans know global warming is real“).
The real story remains the power of the anti-science, pro-pollution disinformation campaign to mislead a sizable fraction of the public (see Warning: “Greater exposure” to Fox News will lead to “increased misinformation” on policy issues, especially climate science):
A World Public Opinion (WPO) poll found in December that a remarkable 60% of those who watched Fox News almost daily believe that “Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring,” whereas only 30% who never watch it believe that. Only 25% of those who watch CNN almost daily hold that erroneous belief “” and only 14% who listen to NPR or PBS almost daily.
Of course, that’s not a big surprise given that we learned the same week that as of December 2009, Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon had required reporters and producers that report on even the most unequivocal scientific facts about global warming to dispute those facts ” IMMEDIATELY.”
Amazingly, even with all that disinformation, poll after poll after poll finds that the public wants to reduce global warming pollution “even if it means an increase in the cost of energy” and 63% of Americans say “EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.”
So even if Americans are more focused on pocketbook issues, even if they are barraged by a they still want strong action to reduce CO2 and boost clean energy.
I’ll do a post next week that looks at the more polls and tries to put things in a historical perspective.