Shift in public view of whether Obama is giving ‘too little’ or ‘too much’ attention” to global warming

Although it didn’t get a lot of attention last week, an NBC/WSJ poll of 1000 adults did have some interesting findings for climate change.

The pollsters had asked respondents “if you think Barack Obama is giving too much attention to this issue, too little attention to this issue, or the right amount of attention to this issue.”

Back in January 2010, it was 27% “too little” and 29% “too much” and 37% “right amount.”

But now it is 35% “too little” and 22% “too much” and 39% “right amount.”

Not a huge shift, but still pretty impressive given that the disinformers have almost certainly outspent the pro-science crowd in the past 6 to 9 months, especially counting all of the brutal ‘cap-and-tax’ ads run by the likes of the Chamber of Commerce in the campaign.

This also seems to match the recent Gallup poll (see Gallup poll: Public understanding of global warming gains).

I’m not certain what might be driving this, since there really hasn’t been all lot of media coverage of global warming.  Perhaps it is all of the extreme weather, which the public and the media is starting to connect to climate change:

21 Responses to Shift in public view of whether Obama is giving ‘too little’ or ‘too much’ attention” to global warming

  1. Fred Teal, Jr says:

    Glad to hear it. Keep pushing, Joe. It is making a difference.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    You deserve some credit for this, Joe. The most educated and influential people from all over the place end up dropping in here at Climate Progress, and the truth is filtering out.

  3. Kermit says:

    Joe certainly does deserve some credit for this news, but it’s also a reminder that we must all do our part, if only to remark at the water cooler that these extreme weather events are what was expected by climate scientists.

    The more people properly connect extreme weather with GW, the more they are going to get anxious about the US doing nothing. This is good news, especially when added to recent news that wind is economically on par with natural gas, and that Big Oil is getting government Big Subsidies. Now if only more people actually read the news…

  4. Scrooge says:

    I agree that JR receives a lot of credit as I think this is the best blog available for a lay person. I think I have also noticed a slight shift with the msm as it now seems more able to write about it as a fact.

  5. PSU Grad says:

    I know and apologize that this is off topic, but can someone explain this letter in today’s NY Times? Who is this professor and what’s he talking about when he says “We developed a simple model that provides forecasts that are 12 times more accurate than warming-alarm forecasts for 90 to 100 years ahead.” 12 times more accurate compared to what? And how do you know it’s more accurate if we haven’t yet jumped “90 to 100 years ahead”?

    I think I’m a somewhat educated individual, but I have no idea what the quoted sentence means. The full letter is here:

    [JK: This guy’s unscientific models have become a joke. He predicted Hillary beating Obama. You can google his name.]

  6. Fire Mountain says:

    Could it be that wave after wave of winter storms combined with global weather weirdness and the backdrop of increased gasoline and food prices are causing people to realize not all is well?

  7. PSU Grad says:

    Thank you Joe! I had Googled his name but most of what came up was either self-promotional or links to denier sites. Did find a reference from Sourcewatch which led me to RealClimate.

    I swear these guys are like stinkbugs…you deal with one and another shows up in short order.

  8. BBHY says:

    I have noticed that while there are still an enormous number of denier posts on pretty much any climate related article on the internet, there is now an increasing number of climate hawks posting, and their posts are getting better. I can tell that a lot of them are referring back to Climate Progress and Skeptical Science to shoot down the deniers arguments.

  9. Kasra says:

    I wonder how this poll would look if Obama actually started communicating how real a threat climate change poses, without mincing words. Would people listen to what he says and decide that yes, this is a serious problem deserving of even more attention than he’s previously given? How would the poll look then?

    I just hope the administration isn’t going to wait on this poll or anything else like it before taking strong action.

  10. Lars Karlsson says:

    PSU Grad,

    What Armstrong and friends did was to assume that IPCC, if it had existed in 1851, would have projected a warming of 0.03 C/year until 1951, which gives a warming of 3C during 100 years. They compare this fantasy projection to a simple model projecting no warming at all, and finds that the former is 2.87 C off and the latter is only 0.13 C off.
    You can read more at Denial Depot. This must be one of the worst papers about the climate ever published. And this clown was invited by the Republicans to witness in a congressional hearing. Twice!

    Sorry if I have insulted any clowns.

  11. John Mason says:

    PSU Grad,

    Anybody who makes statements that incorporate throwaways (in bold) like, “We developed a simple model that provides forecasts that are 12 times more accurate than warming-alarm forecasts for 90 to 100 years ahead.” ….should immediately alert you to reach for the large pinch of salt. They just cannot resist throwing in a bit of politics here, some tabloid terms there. That should alert all readers to the effect of: “Warning. Denier plot-device is integral to this story”!

    It’s also close to that once-favoured opening gambit of “I have been a physics professor for the last 142 years and..[insert random garbage here]..” – to which the correct response should of course be, “Hey! I said I wanted fries with that!”

    Cheers – John

  12. John Mason says:

    Sorry – the off-bold type should have kicked-in after “alarm”. I don’t know what happened there.

    Cheers – JOhn

  13. Gnobuddy says:

    I too would like to give Joe Romm some of the credit for helping to inform the public about climate collapse, and thank him (and all the other contributors here) for providing information that is correct, current, comprehensive, and understandable to those of us who are not climate scientists ourselves.

    I am an educator, and I make sure to tell each new batch of my students about, and to give them a little overview of the current findings of climate researchers. Some students remain apathetic, some are momentarily surprised, and a few are shocked at the severity of the situation and start looking for more information on their own.

    Who knows, some of them may help push US politics in the right direction. And in the worst case, if it’s already too late and civilization as we know it is doomed, at least some of these young people will be a little better prepared for the future we’re all facing.

    So, Joe, know that you are also influencing some of my students, through me, thanks to all the work you put into creating and maintaining Climate Progress.


  14. Joan Savage says:

    Other factors could be affecting the poll outcomes, one way or another.

    Our chronic midterm discontent with presidents can linger. If a poll runs test questions that bring out how strongly responders had a more general sentiment of, “he’s not doing enough,” that could help make a useful distinction between an issue sentiment and a popularity sentiment.

    Polls are largely limited to published-number landline phone responders, and it’s important to keep correcting for that sampling bias. As more people move to cell-only phone contact, sampling bias will be even more of a challenge.

    Social media, Internet searches, and on-line news are reaching more of the older generations. In recent polls, the pollsters asked about MSM based in the US. Yet, go to YouTube on a current events topic and it’s not usual to see a top selection from NHK, ITN, BBC, Russia Today, Al-Jazeera, or an individual contributor.

    To the extent that public opinion has genuinely shifted on this issue, that feels like a “preponderance of evidence” move. When it takes a few minutes to recall all the extreme weather and climate news in 2010, that’s a real conversation starter for a wide range of educational levels and generations.

    Climate Progress reminds me of Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette, with wide impact if not exactly majority readership!

  15. sault says:

    With the economy slowly getting going again, the 8% swing to too little action can be explained somewhat. The “ZOMG! The crap & tax bill will eat everybody’s puppies!” arguement isn’t as effective anymore apparently. The troubling thing is the 22% that still say the President is doing too much. Aside from some EPA standards and clean energy investment, there’s not much else from the administration on this issue.

  16. Richard Brenne says:

    Lars Karlsson (#10) – No offense taken.

  17. Celia Schorr says:

    Lots of good points, especially #14 re: number of extreme weather events in 2010. Case in point: Here’s the list of articles (today, just minutes ago) on the ‘this just in’ list on the NYT site :

    “Times Wire »
    Most recent updates on See More »
    1. Moments ago Winds and Dry Land Leave Texas Ablaze
    2. Moments ago ‘Never Been This Bad,’ North Dakotan Says
    3. Moments ago In Iowa, a Swath of Destruction”

    In addition, I think the exposés about the Koch brothers’ activities has had an effect on the MSM. The exposés confirm that the MSM is being methodically manipulated (distracted with false “debates,” lies, etc) by moneyed interests with an agenda – which is always distressing to journalists! (Or, used to be, anyway.)

  18. JK says:

    Just read a somewhat off-point but interesting story that might have some application here:

    “Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex–a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.”

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    JK #18, I do not doubt that the Rightwing authoritarian personality must have a different neural structure from those unlike him or her, and the interesting question is, how did this come about? Is this an innate, inherited condition, one inexorably coded in the genes, or is it the result of nurturing, of being brought up in a certain way, in a certain milieu and amongst people who view the world in a certain way?
    Of course, it’s probably both nature and nurture, like every other facet of human psychology and personality. The old brain is plenty plastic, and the genome and its expression under environmental influences is likewise capable of exhibiting a wide degree of difference between individuals. I do suspect, however, that the range of innate personality types is being ‘nudged’ in the direction of Rightist paranoia, fearfulness and antipathy by the social environment. When the political system presents a choice between Right and far Right, when collectivist, co-operative alternatives have been completely expunged, when the media operates relentlessly and ruthlessly as a brainwashing apparatus to compel acquiescence with the political, economic and personal programs of the ruling elite, when the most intrusive means of mass communication, like talk-back radio, are entirely of a hate and fearmongering reactionary disposition, the populace are going to be beaten into shape, whether they like it or not. That anyone resists the relentless indoctrination against thinking of life as anything but a ruthless, atomised, quest for dominance over others and for material possessions, is cause for hope, and wonderment. This is that third great influence on the development of the individual, the ‘peer’ group, which has been usurped, de facto, in capitalist societies by the elite controlled MSM and advertising ‘opinion-forming’ structures. And it is plain that vast numbers of the more impressionable types, those more innately susceptible to bullshit, manipulation, enticement and demagogy, have been bludgeoned by relentless propaganda into the lunatic belief (amongst many other such delusions) that the planet’s scientists are engaged in a gigantic Communist conspiracy to lie about anthropogenic climate change. Paranoia and idiocy have become contagious, and the Right has been lobbing disease-riddled bodies over the walls and into the public domain with that fiendish enthusiasm that the defenders of wealth and privilege never lack. Those inherently susceptible ie those without a robust intellectual immunity to bulldust, have been infected and are lurching about like the ‘living dead’. With luck some will recover and have achieved immunity to the contagion of paranoid Rightwing imbecility, but the vast majority seem lost for good. What we need is a vaccine, and we need it fast. And we need to find some way to quarantine the carriers, the ‘Typhoid Annies’ of denialism.

  20. Barry says:

    I think Fire Mountain (#6) nails it with his point about rising gas prices.

    The number one thing that seems to move public opinion in USA is pocketbook issues. Rapidly rising fuel prices is many times more obvious and painful an immediate threat to most Americans than climate changes so far.

    This is causing oil to become a real threat to personal “security” for many people. And so they are primed to see oil as a problem and solutions that get us off oil as valuable and important.

    This is the kind of messaging gift that climate hawks have few of these days and we all should use this situation to push for solutions to climate threats while people are paying attention and motivated.

    The Grand Oil Party knows this game and tries to use this sense of threat to push for what amounts to more of the same treadmill for Americans but that message of theirs is vulnerable to good counter messaging right now.

    oil dependence = insecurity and threats

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Mulga, the vaccine is an education system designed around learning, not teaching, e.g. The Future of Schools, 2006.

    In the meantime I recomend some antibiotics, some nice sharp shocks such as a few prolonged blackouts which will both cut off their supply lines to the sources of the disease (TV and internet) and force them back on their own perceptions and cooperation and conversation with healthy people.

    I seem to remember that famous example from NY when a blackout caused people to engage in such healthy behaviour as making babies – a few more babies is nowhere near as bad as the denial disease, ME