The latest Newspoll test on climate gives out almost no useful information on what Australians think about carbon emissions, but definitively shows that Newspoll survey designers didn’t think too hard about the questions. Indeed the survey is so meaningless that sometimes sceptics and unskeptics would have to both tick the same boxes. Could this be a survey-bot at work?
THINKING NOW ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE. DO YOU PERSONALLY BELIEVE OR NOT BELIEVE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS CURRENTLY OCCURRING?
Isn’t the aim of polling to get answers that are not ambiguous?
Does “Climate Change” mean: a/ that the climate changes, or b/ that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the atmosphere?
I would have to tick YES for this question. Yes, I do think that ice-ages occur and warm periods do too, and that there is no static perfect temperature for the Earth, and that currently there is no reason to believe that the forces that have changed our climate for 4.5 billion years have suddenly, for the first time, reached a fixed unchanging stasis.
Presumably the 22% of people who ticked : “Not believe” were using definition ‘b’ above, and not the literal definition ‘a’. Instead of information about public attitudes to man made global warming, Newspoll may have shown that 73% of people read literally, and 22% interpret questions in light of current “fashions” in Orwellian gobblespeak. But then again, maybe not. What if the 22% can read literally, but chose to send a message to politicians by ignoring the literal meaning. Who can tell? Not Newspoll.
Normally Newspoll is one of the most rigorous of surveying organizations in Australia — but this time they have fallen for the shifty reframing tricks of the Scare Campaign Team.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time to rescue the English language and we can start by writing to Newspoll (and other polling equivalents overseas) and suggest that they frame their questions with unambiguous words, instead of vague Newspeak.
How can a nation have a national debate when we can’t even agree on the words to discuss a particular phenomenon?
How much more useful would that question have been if it asked:
THINKING NOW ABOUT Earth’s Climate. DO YOU PERSONALLY BELIEVE OR NOT BELIEVE THAT man made emissions are the main cause of recent global warming?
Lets add those results up again
Then there’s this o-so-sloppy shorthand which produces headlines that give conclusions that are nothing like what the survey actually showed (watch the “maths” in the results):
Question: DO YOU PERSONALLY BELIEVE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS…?*
Results: ENTIRELY CAUSED BY HUMAN ACTIVITY + PARTLY CAUSED BY HUMAN ACTIVITY
= “TOTAL CAUSED BY HUMAN ACTIVITY” (94% of people believe this!)
Hmmm. Let’s think about that phrasing: “Entirely caused” plus “partly caused” does not equal “Total caused by human activity”, it equals “Total who think humans have some non-zero effect on the climate”. Yes, I fit that bill again! Presumably Andy Pitman, Will Steffen, Dr Glickson, James Hansen, Phil Jones and possibly even Al Gore would all give the same answer too.
When Newspoll designs a survey with questions so loaded that gets the same answers from outright opponents you know you might as well draw straws from a hat. It would be cheaper and it wouldn’t contribute to national-illiteracy.
Let’s contact Newspoll and suggest they avoid the term “Climate Change” (unless they are really asking whether people believe that the stories of ice ages were faked). The forces of corruption and waste win when language is misused.
The inanity IS the point.
Good policy starts with good English.
- Ph: (02) 9921 1000
- Ph: (03) 9416 4100
- Ph: (02) 6249 8706
- Mob: 0423 295 731
PS: Perhaps people overseas can name agencies (eg Rassmussen, Morgan) who have also used the phrase “Climate Change” in their survey-bots. They could use a little prod about literal English.