Planet Gore

Don’t Believe the Hype: America Has a “Climate Majority”

Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times touting his own poll on global warming and suggests that his poll accurately reflects the views of Americans, while other polls that show dwindling support for global warming are either being read wrong, or being spun. An excerpt:

But a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.

In our survey, which was financed by a grant to Stanford from the National Science Foundation, 1,000 randomly selected American adults were interviewed by phone between June 1 and Monday. When respondents were asked if they thought that the earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years, 74 percent answered affirmatively. And 75 percent of respondents said that human behavior was substantially responsible for any warming that has occurred.

For many issues, any such consensus about the existence of a problem quickly falls apart when the conversation turns to carrying out specific solutions that will be costly. But not so here.

Fully 86 percent of our respondents said they wanted the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit, and 76 percent favored government limiting business’s emissions of greenhouse gases in particular. Not a majority of 55 or 60 percent — but 76 percent.

Large majorities opposed taxes on electricity (78 percent) and gasoline (72 percent) to reduce consumption. But 84 percent favored the federal government offering tax breaks to encourage utilities to make more electricity from water, wind and solar power.

And huge majorities favored government requiring, or offering tax breaks to encourage, each of the following: manufacturing cars that use less gasoline (81 percent); manufacturing appliances that use less electricity (80 percent); and building homes and office buildings that require less energy to heat and cool (80 percent).

Thus, there is plenty of agreement about what people do and do not want government to do.

Our poll also indicated that some of the principal arguments against remedial efforts have been failing to take hold. Only 18 percent of respondents said they thought that policies to reduce global warming would increase unemployment and only 20 percent said they thought such initiatives would hurt the nation’s economy. Furthermore, just 14 percent said the United States should not take action to combat global warming unless other major industrial countries like China and India do so as well.

Our findings might seem implausible in light of recent polls that purport to show that Americans are increasingly skeptical about the very existence of climate change. But in fact, those polls did not produce conflicting evidence at all.

What’s missing from the op-ed, however, is an actual link to his poll or his methodology. Everyone knows that the way you ask questions can influence their outcome; so if you’re going to write an op-ed about the poll, why hide the questions? And why would the New York Times run the op-ed without such a link?

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