Gallup poll: Public understanding of global warming gains, while most Republicans remain misinformed

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.

24 Responses to Gallup poll: Public understanding of global warming gains, while most Republicans remain misinformed

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘spin’ put on these figures is unsurprising. The MSM is Rightwing, entirely, in ownership, control and personnel. Anthropogenic climate change denialism is a Rightwing ideological project, so Rightwingers in the media will ALWAYS distort the facts to suit their and their owners’ ideology, or find employment elsewhere. That FoxNews Ltd is the most extreme example of this tendency does not exculpate the rest of the MSM, who are merely more subtle, more disingenuous, more dissembling to the same end. The FoxNews Ltd crowd simply require the application of brute force to ram the received wisdom through their obdurate skulls. In any case the opinions of the proles matter not one iota. So long as the real masters of every capitalist state, the rich owners of society, are determined not to address anthropogenic climate change, it will not be addressed.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    The program chiefs should resign instantly.

  3. shrubber says:

    This doesn’t even seem to be a statistically significant drop in people who are worried about global warming. 1 percent is almost certainly within the margin of error for that question. So Gallup is basically saying, “We polled different people than last time, and nothing really changed, but we’re going to make a big deal out of it anyway.”

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    What I find particularly significant in this poll is the finding that the gap between Ds and Rs has increasd over time. This shows the power of the deniers to turn a matter of fact into a belief system, just the opposite of what we need right now.

    Green groups in the USA need to get together to devise an effective strategy to get around this, ME

  5. adelady says:

    I dunno, mulga. Never underestimate the power of cowardice.

    Courage and cowardice are serious aspects of facing up to, or not, the naked political power of the rich, the influential and the frantic protecting their own interests.

  6. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Cowardice? Seems to me it’s close to impossible to fight the wealthy – they can pretty much ignore anything the “little people” can throw their way.

    They also seem to be able to ignore the fact that they and their children can’t ignore nature – until they can’t ignore it anymore, that is.

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ominous Clouds, it is not close to impossible to fight the wealthy. They won’t ignore it when there is a huge mass of ‘little people’ coming together. That’s what needs to happen. You stopped the Vietnamese war didn’t you? ME

  8. Ben Lieberman says:

    Time to act on this information: up to now almost no one has made the case that no one should vote for Republicans because they will drive the environment to ruin. Will this be a winning message right away? Perhaps not but it’s time to put denying politicians on the defensive and make their stance an issue ever single day of the week.

  9. Zetetic says:

    I already linked this on two other threads, but here is an online petition to ask from Public Citizen to ask Obama to stop subsidizing nuclear power.
    End Taxpayer Subsidies for Nuclear Power
    Petition to President Obama

  10. Roger says:

    Commenting on online petitions, here’s one asking Obama to please START educating and leading on Climate change:

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    #8. Ben, good idea. It has become noticeable that the Koch brothers don’t like being exposed and having their retreats etc protested. These sorts of things have a gradual accumulative effect.

    You have to put up with the flack but persistence pays benefits, ME

  12. JohnV says:

    This episode shows the real value of opinion polls

    how to get the answer you want

  13. Sou says:

    All Australians (and presumably anyone else) can vote here on Julie Bishop’s ‘very unscientific’ poll. For people outside Australia, Ms Bishop is the deputy leader of the opposition Liberal Party that is driving a fear campaign against the carbon price scheme that the government is planning to introduce next year.

    The poll must be doing the rounds of people who understand the threat of global warming. So far, 68.8% (789 voters) strongly support a carbon tax plus 5.5% who merely support it. 22.5% strongly oppose it.

    Send her a message here before the denialati take over her poll:

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ben, I should also have said ‘don’t try this on your own’. You need an expanding group so that the actions multiply over time. It also spreads the risk.

    Also don’t just have one target, start broad and have a shifting range of targets as statements get made and events happen. If somebody attacks you, ignore it and change targets, ME

  15. Gerald Einem says:

    I don’t spend alot of time blogging but I submit “opinion” articles to newspapers.I suggest that these are particularly effective if the are sent to the home town newspaper of a congressman and explain how they are standing in the way of progress against disasterous climate change.

  16. toby says:

    This means there is a hard bedrock of people who will not have their minds changed by the media. That is grounds for hope.

  17. JonS says:

    OT but comment for Joe. Several times I have seen CP articles use the word ‘lede’ in the text. As a former editor of a scientific journal I have never come across this word in running from text to print. The Oxford Dictionary doesn’t record it in any sense. I suspect a Dragon error, can you correct in future? The relevant quote from the above story is, ‘The CNN headline reads, “Poll: Global warming fears cooling,” and the lede is “Americans’…’

    [JR: As unsnarkily as possible, I’d simply recommend googling the word, rather than using the OED.]

  18. Will Fox says:

    “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.”

    Please add the missing text, thanks.

  19. mike roddy says:

    What Mulga said.

  20. a third of republicans do not believe in AGW –
    about the same number of republicans believe that obama is a muslim.
    ergo, these are the same people, and there’s a hard core of really, really, stupid republicans.

  21. Chris Winter says:

    Graf, lede, nut graf — all are jargon of the newspaper industry. See e.g.

    – 30 –

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Merrelyn #7, I’m afraid that the plutocrats’ response to a mass of ‘little people’ coming together is on display right now in Bahrain. It was also on display in Egypt, ie a couple of hundred killed then a phony ‘change’ of the top stooge, while the system remains totally intact. When the Egyptians realise that they have been dudded, they’ll get the Bahrain Treatment. There is, alas, no way that the plutocratic global neo-feudal system can ever be ‘reformed’.

  23. Robert M. Cerello says:

    Global warming is real. Realists who study the situation scientifically overwhelmingly acknowledge that corporate and national polluters’ actions are badly worsening an already dangerous situation. Those same corporate tsars doing the polluting but not taking responsibility for their actions are spending millions to fight against EPA regulation, international cooperation and the adoption of long-term sustainable and clean forms of energy to replace old, dirty and unsustainable ones whose supply-side pushers are doing more and more harm every year to keep their disgusting salaries, profit margins and place in the totalitarian right-wing World pecking order of scofflaws, collectivistic infallible-leader lawgivers and anti-ecological unregenerate massive overpolluters.
    So, where’s the news? The news is that 85% of the U.S. news’s corporate media sources are nativist-neocon-postmodernist fantasizing puritanic right-wing in their primary orientation; that they do not believe there can be objective news coverage; and that that’s the reason why they can’t, won’t and fight viciously not to supply true information–attested facts, standards based use of value terms and science as opposed to attitudes, opinions and smears.

  24. David King says:

    This is totally to be expected. Most right wing supporters in every country do not study facts. If they did they would not be right wing unless perhaps they have a personal vested interest of some sort. The fact that Fox news is merely propaganda, similar to the Daily Telegraph in UK, merely indicates that their readers do not trouble to study facts. I realised this over 20 years ago, and since then have only pointed out facts to anyone open minded enough to listen. Most right wingers have closed minds though and facts are not allowed to interfere with preconceptions.