Patterico's Pontifications

3/8/2012

Los Angeles Times Distorts Evidence on Public Opinion Regarding Global Warming

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Environment,General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

The Los Angeles Times recently opened a story on climate change opinion in the following manner:

After several years of finding that fewer and fewer Americans believed in man-made climate change, pollsters are now finding that belief is on the uptick.

The newest study from the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change, which is a biannual survey taken since fall 2008 and organized by the Brookings Institute, shows that 62% of Americans now believe that man-made climate change is occurring, and 26% do not. The others are unsure.

There’s one slight problem with those opening paragraphs: they are absolutely 100% false. The survey in question reported on public opinion regarding global warming . . . not man-made global warming.

Click on the link above to the word “study.” It goes to a short description of the survey. The description is titled “Belief in Global Warming on the Rebound: National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change.” There is a link to a .pdf of the report on the survey. I have gone ahead and uploaded it to my site, so you can read it here.

Feel free to search for any evidence that the survey deals with man-made global warming. You won’t find it. The opening paragraph of the report states:

After a period of declining levels of belief in global warming there appears to be a modest rebound in the percentage of Americans that believe temperatures on the planet are increasing. . . . The survey, which was fielded in December of 2011, found 62% of Americans agreeing that there is solid evidence that average temperatures on earth have been getting warmer over the past four decades, with 26% of U.S. residents maintaining an opposing view on the matter.

These statistics are the same ones mentioned in the opening paragraphs of the L.A. Times article. The problem is that there is no reference to the concept that the survey relates to man-made global warming — the claim made by the L.A. Times. The questions asked in the survey included questions like: “Is there solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past four decades?” and “What is the primary factor that has caused you to believe that temperatures on earth are increasing?” (The latter question does not address what people thought was the cause of warmer temperatures, but what was the cause of their change in beliefs. Answers included factors like melting ice caps, Al Gore’s documentary, and the like.)

The difference is huge. The evidence that the planet has been warming, while disputed by some, seems to me be quite strong. Whether that warming is man-made; whether humans significantly contribute to the warming trend; whether the evidence backs up the scientists’ contentions . . . these are questions that are far more subject to dispute.

Ironically, the study observes:

While Americans who think the planet is warming largely disagree with the premise that the media and climate scientists are overstating evidence about global warming, most citizens who do not see evidence of increasing temperatures on Earth believe that the scientists and the press are distorting evidence about the matter.

And they’re right . . . as evidenced by the distortions in this article regarding their opinions!

This comes to us via reader G.H., who says he has brought the matter to the attention of the Readers’ Representative. Apparently in vain, since there is no correction appended to the article.

I believe this is a black-and-white factual error. The article claims that the survey measures changes in beliefs on man-made global warming, and it just doesn’t. So I’ll make this another of my quixotic battles. This post is the opening salvo. It would be nice if it were the only shot I have to fire, as my time and energy are short. If any of you want to take up the next step and write a letter to the Readers’ Rep, that would be fantastic. I will publish every single one you write, together with any response you receive.

Supernarrative Wednesday

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 7:28 am

[Posted by Karl]

Super Tuesday was inevitably followed by the analysis of What It All Means.  The dominant narrative is captured in the NYT headline “With No Knockout Punch, a Bruising Battle Plods On.”  Or the ABC News headline “Mitt Romney Wins the Night, But Not the Momentum.” David Frum proclaimed it “A Bad Night For Romney.”  At CNN, even Ed Morrissey wrote of “A Night With No Winners.”  And so on.

Romney may have underperformed expectations a smidge, although the delegate selection process is such that we do not know for sure.  However, he remains on the “majority track,” while is rivals are all-but-mathematically incapable of winning.  Even if the Santorum-Gingrich combine blocked Romney from obtaining a majority of pledged delegates, the party would likely push him over the top.  It does not please me much to write that, but it is what it is.

The dominant narrative downplays or ignores the actual conditions of this campaign, as explained by Elaine Kamarck:

The Republican presidential nomination contest is dragging on because Mitt Romney is a weak front-runner—right? That’s the media narrative, but in fact the 2012 race was always going to be a long slog, regardless of which candidates were running. For that we can thank changes to the electoral calendar and the campaign-finance system.

***

Four years ago, a full 80% of the Republican delegates and 70% of the Democratic delegates were chosen before March. Super Tuesday was in early February and consisted of a huge number of primaries. This year, only 6% of the Democratic delegates and 13% of the Republican delegates were chosen before March—and Super Tuesday was a shadow of its former self. It held only 10 Republican contests, compared to 21 in 2008. Missing were some very big states like California, New Jersey and New York. The relatively leisurely pace of the 2012 contests—certainly in comparison to 2008—means that no Republican can actually reach the magic number of 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination until much later in the spring.

Moreover, The RNC, having noticed that the Dems’ long 2008 campaign drove registration and organization in more states, also changed the rules to promote (quasi) proportional delegate allocation in contests held before April.   The storyline that Romney is a weak candidate has some merit, but I cannot think of a candidate since Reagan that could have swept delegates in the manner so many in the media seem to expect of Romney — and not even Reagan could lock up a nomination based on the number of delegates at stake so far this year.

Christian Heinze had a balanced assessment of Romney’s current position.  It may be that Mitt Romney’s struggle at “sealing the deal” shows he is unable to beat Obama.  Or it may be that, like Obama’s weakness with women and blue-collar voters against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries, Mitt’s weaknesses with conservatives and blue-collar voters may disappear — or matter less — in a general election matchup.  We really cannot know this yet.

What we do know is that the next batch of primaries includes Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Louisiana — none of which are particularly favorable states for Romney.  Thus, it’s a fair bet that the narrative of Romney’s weakness will continue, even though we already know he is weak in these states and stronger in states holding their primaries in April (e.g., Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and New York) with rules that will also favor Romney.  The storyline will be that Romney is weak, even though this mostly will be an artifact of the primary calendar.  It will be interesting to see whether the media decides Romney is “revitalized” and gaining momentum in April, when the explanation will again be the calendar.

The current storyline likely is not the result of liberal media bias as such.  Indeed, it may not even be an anti-Romney bias from either end of the ideological spectrum.  Rather, it seems mostly a case of hype making the mediasphere go ’round.  Drama sells.  Reporting that the GOP campaign is going to drag on mostly because the RNC wanted it that way is not traffic bait.

–Karl


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