Friday, October 16, 2015

Good news and seasonality in climate change polling

UPDATE:  Thanks to Lawrence Hamilton for posting a link to their analysis of multiple polls on this and related issues in PLOS ONE.


Via Climate Progress, the highest percentage of Americans since 2008, some 70%, believe climate change is happening. This particular polling series started in 2008. They don't ask about the causes or policy, just whether it's happening.

I noticed what looked like seasonality in their polling and ran numbers. Starting in fall 2009, I got 63.4% acceptance for fall versus 58.8% in the spring, so don't be surprised if numbers drop next spring. I've wondered about this before.

The poll attributes a lot of the current increased acceptance to the drought, so that might also change.

 A record high 65% of those accepting warming are "very confident" about it, which sounds like they won't be fickle. OTOH, the 2012 confidence levels were almost as high but belief still fell substantially in the next two years.

I believe there's been a substantial change in the mainstream media in recent years ending the false balance between reality and denial on climate discussions. You don't see that having an effect on this data, yet, unless this fall represents the beginning. More anecdotally I have the sense that Fox News is just barely beginning to be less terrible, so we'll have to look at future polling to see if there's an effect.

Overall, it's good news even if it's short of the 97%-plus figure where it should be, but we can't count on it lasting. If it does last, however, that will be problematic for Republicans. Right now 56% of Republican voters think warming is happening. This could peel off more non-crazy Republicans from the current leadership.

11 comments:

Russell Seitz said...

Who would be so skeptical as to ask why 70% of our countrymen think they can notice the change due to radiative forcing in the face of diurnal and seasonal shifts six orders of magnitude larger ?


The Amazing Randi , Dana , John ...?

David B. Benson said...

Having lived here for more than 45 years, yes, I can detect climate warming.

Tom said...

pity they don't want to do anything about it

Fernando Leanme said...

That's like running a poll about gun control asking "do you believe guns can be used to punch holes in people?"

Blogger profile said...

You mean "obviously true", Fern? Are you finally admitting that climate change and AGW are now obviously true, on the level of "guns can punch holes in people"?

I would congratulate you, but I know that you'll change your stance as soon as you can find an excuse.

Brian said...

Russell - I think xkcd has a response:

https://xkcd.com/1321/

Noticing changes in averages is hard, but extremes is not so hard. Unless one isn't paying attention.

Fernando - interesting point. The problem in climate dialog is worse than in gun issues. At least the gun fanatics don't deny basic physics.

john Mruzik said...

I think that most people know the climate scientist support climate change, and each extreme weather event is proof of that conviction.The worm will turn.

L Hamilton said...

The great divide in climate-change public opinion (and politics) is *not* whether climate is changing, but what's causing that. In a recent synthesis of 35 surveys (about 28,000 interviews) we found a majority (around 54% nationwide) believe climate is changing, caused mainly by human activities; but 35% or so believe it is changing, due mainly to natural forces. People holding those two "pro-change" views are starkly divided politically and ideologically, and of course the two beliefs suggest quite different things not only about mitigation (greenhouse gases etc.) but about whether we should be adapting to directional change, or alternatively random variation, cycles, the coming ice age and so forth.

The paper (in PLOS ONE, not paywalled) is at the URL below. Asking about climate change without specifying a cause amounts to mushing together the first two bars in each sub-plot of Figure 1.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0138208

Blogger profile said...

" The great divide in climate-change public opinion (and politics) is *not* whether climate is changing, but what's causing that. "

No it isn't.

Those who don't believe it's man-made almost overwhelmingly doesn't think it's something we should do anything about.

The only ones who think it isn't man made are the ones who "believe" that because of the actions that need to be taken, NOT because there's evidence for it being natural, or meaningful evidence of it not being man-caused.

"but 35% or so believe it is changing, due mainly to natural forces"

Because then they don't have to change what they do. Companies can continue to drill for oil, they can still drive their petrol cars, they can pretend they are not at all at fault, the government won't "interfere" with businesses making money.

Brian said...

L Hamilton - thanks for posting that link to your paper! I'll have to read it carefully, I just skimmed parts of it now.

It's depressing that Republican denialism infects even those with post-grad education - I was hoping it would be different for the most educated. I wonder you'd finally see an uptick if it was broken down further, say Republicans with a science PhD.

My SWAG is that the public thinks mushily about climate change, and those that acknowledge change but think it's natural are more likely to support policies to reduce emissions than those who deny the climate is warming. That would be interesting to test.

I agree that whether warming is human-caused is the key issue for public support. In defense of the poll I blogged about, they said they would be polling about that issue specifically as well.

L Hamilton said...

It's depressing that Republican denialism infects even those with post-grad education - I was hoping it would be different for the most educated. I wonder you'd finally see an uptick if it was broken down further, say Republicans with a science PhD.

I was surprised the first time I saw that right-opening megaphone shape in graphs of climate concern as a function of education*ideology, in this 2008 paper (paywalled, unfortunately)
http://instaar.colorado.edu/aaar/journal_issues/abstract.php?id=2601

But the reviewers were even more (unhappily) surprised and asked for all sorts of additional tests, such as looking for science PhD's. There aren't that many science PhD's in a general-public sample of a few thousand people, and among the few we do find, most are not the kind of science PhD's that NSF reviewers are picturing as they look at the people around them. But anyway, the *negative* effect of education on climate concern among the most conservative is a quite robust finding, right up to the (all-fields) doctoral level. Whether it still holds if you specified particular disciplines is a question for a different kind of survey.