The new Gallup Poll is out. Most commentators are focused on the worried “a great deal” category, which is back to 1989 levels, but that’s largely noise. The important trend is at the other end of the spectrum, and seems to be missed. The only category with steady growth are the hard core skeptics, people who are worried “not at all”. That’s doubled from 12 to 24%; the trend is up. This is an unequivocal category. One quarter of the population are solidly, completely skeptical.
Given the 4% errors, there are only two clear trends in this table below. Firstly, those who had no opinion have now got one, and it’s skeptical. Secondly, the number of the most implacable skeptics has doubled. After 20 years of propaganda the section of the population that is not buying the scare is steadily increasing. The size of the groups with variable levels of worry flicks up and down as people switch. But the numbers of those who worry “not at all” are steadily rising, and therein lies the death of the scare. It’s a one way ticket from being uninformed and worried to the “only a little/not at all” category.
The “enviro-scare” campaign has over-played its hand.
Here are the trends over the last 25 years of propaganda-filled repetition. No major western party or institution or news outlet is an outspoken declared skeptic. Tony Abbott runs one of the most skeptical governments in the west, but even he is promising billions to deal with climate change. The UN, the World Bank, the EU, most science associations and every single government agency says “climate change is real”. But despite that monotony, a quarter of the population are absolute skeptics and it’s growing. That growth comes from word of mouth, books, radio, and blogs. Q14D Gallup 2015.
The base of the “greatly worried” group bottoms out in “bad years” (for them) at a quarter of the population too. This is probably the limit of the current implacable believers, the unreachable core. It will be interesting to how much further that number may fall. Twenty years from now it may have shrunk to the 8% – 10% type group who vote Green regularly.
But right now, the skeptical must be focused on sharing messages with the middling fear groups. Half of the population lie between the die-hard skeptics and the die-hard believers, and they can be reached.
The peaks and falls in fear reveal the “switchers”.
The highest points in “peak-fear” mirror the falls in the “only a little worried” category. Those who worry a great deal go up and down. About 7% of the population flick back and forward from being worried a great deal to being worried a fair bit. When “peak fear” occurs, the growth probably comes from the “fair amount” of worry category, but that category itself stays roughly level as people from the “only a little bit scared” category shift up a notch too. But the volatility is decreasing. The peaks of peak-fear did not rise as far in 2013. Notably in the first two rounds of peak fear (1999 and 2006-07), the “fairly worried” category jumped up too, but not in the latest cycle in 2013. Gallup notes that peak fear tends to occur during peak wealth times. It’s a luxury to worry about global warming, and when economic times bite, there is less room for enviro-fear. That doesn’t augur well for the scare campaign. It’s hard to see economic booms coming in the near future. Interest rates are lower than low, and debt is saturated.
Growth in skeptics will have to come from partial believers now
About half of the new implacable skeptics have come from the “no opinion” crowd, though this pool is now exhausted. So further growth in the skeptics will have to come from the “little worried” group. But overall, if we track the worried versus the not-so-worried (top two versus bottom two) the trend is clear enough: skepticism is growing.
Gallup poll press release.
Gallop poll questions and results.
* (With a 4% margin of sampling error.)