Newspoll's questions mislead the media

Dodgy wording

In the same poll that showed support for Julia Gillard’s carbon tax at a laughable 30%, it has been reported that over 70% of voters believe climate change is man-made. This is a gift to Labor, since they can point to that and say “Look, people believe man-made climate change is real, but (unlike us) they don’t want to take the tough decision and do something about it.”

Here is the Newspoll question (PDF here):

DO YOU PERSONALLY BELIEVE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS…?*

  • entirely caused by human activity: 14%
  • partly caused by human activity: 58%
  • TOTAL CAUSED BY HUMAN ACTIVITY: 72%

Now even I, as a writer of a climate sceptic blog, would have to be included in that 72% (actually the 58%), because I consider that man has a partial effect on the climate, like virtually everything else on the planet: plants and animals and buildings and cities etc etc. We can live with a modest 1 degree of warming – there may even be benefits from that warming, and from the increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

So the question that should have been asked is whether people believe that the effect that man has on climate is dangerous and requires action to reverse that effect. In other words, that the modest warming from increased CO2 is amplified by positive feedbacks (as the models would have you believe) into something that is dangerous.

I would bet the figure would be closer to the 14% that believe natural climate change doesn’t exist (the hardcore “natural climate change deniers” who apparently haven’t heard of Ice Ages) than the 72% figure quoted in the media.

And that must be the more important figure – if people, like me, believe that climate change is partly man-made, but that the magnitude of the change caused by man is small and does not require action to reverse it, then a carbon price is similarly not required.

Comments

  1. Sean McHugh says:

    Lighting a match causes a small temperature rise of the air. Let’s say 95% of the population would agree with that. Newspoll could then just as well say the that 95% of the population agree that a rise in outside temperature is due to someone lighting a match!!

    And if you have a look at the poll they could have alternately taken the 5% who said that humans weren’t having any affect, added to the 58% who implied that climate change occurs naturally, and arrived at a figure of 63% of the population agreeing that climate change is natural. But that would not have assisted the agenda. Newspoll presented it the way they wanted it to look. In the end, it won’t help Labor/Green, other than by reinforcing their delusion. That’s something that will be explained to them at the next election.

  2. See here for an egregious example of push-polling questions “on what would make people “more or less likely to put a price on carbon”.

  3. Baldrick says:

    Answer: D – none of the above!

  4. Laurie Williams says:

    Sir Humphrey demonstrating to Bernard the art of polling, in under 2 minutes:

    Bernard: “Is that really what they do?”

    Sir Humphrey: “Well, not the reputable ones, no, but there aren’t many of those.”

  5. Russell says:

    Their question also lumps things like land-use changes in man-made impacts on climate. As far as I can tell, forest clearing, UHI etc all have a much greater effect on global temperatures than CO2, so I would answer than man does have an effect.

    • Russell & Simon; I politely disagree with you guys on this one for three reasons:
      1. Carbon dioxide lags warming by centuries – therefore man made C02 the last century is irrelevant. Regardless of C02 rising by approx 5% the last decade we are experiencing cooling. How does manmade C02 or any other manmade source cause warming?
      2. All other “heat” sources are negligible when compared to the sun.
      3. Total C02 in the atmosphere is 0.038% (Wikipedia), of this 0.038%, 97% is natural (IPCC). To be generous; let’s say 0.05% of the atmosphere is made up of C02 and manmade C02 is 5%. Therefore manmade C02 as a percentage of the atmosphere is 0.0025. The following video tells it all:
      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5576670191369613647#

  6. email address for Newspoll:
    newspoll@newspoll.com.au
    Register your complaint, and promise to lie if ever phoned, unless the questions are amended.
    I also have a problem with questions on “willingness to pay”. They are always restricted to energy, when it is pretty dammed obvious the price of everything will go up.

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