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New survey on climate politics suggests lying is the best policy

July 6, 2011


A couple of the Science sites (read global warming) out there are touting a new survey done by Stanford that suggests a candidate running for the Senate has nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain by supporting “green” positions in his campaigning.  Me being the flat-earther that I am, I decided to dig a little deeper into the methodology by which these conclusions were met.  Dare I say I am nonplussed at my discoveries?

Let me quickly describe the overview of the survey’s method.  They randomly called 1101 people and presented them hypothetical statements from a non-existing non-party affiliated candidate, one of those questions was either a “green” or “not-green” statement.  They then asked the respondents if they “mostly agree”, “mostly disagreed” or “do not agree nor disagree” with the statement.  Then the respondent was asked if they would vote for the candidate.

As with most surveys, one of my biggest beefs is with the nature of the questions, for example, here is one of 6 “random” questions asked people:

I am an unwavering proponent of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and the right it confers on the people to keep and bear arms. As such, any attempts to deny this right violate both the letter and spirit of our Constitution. Enforcement, not new gun control laws, is the answer. To address concerns of gun crimes and criminal possession of firearms, the answer is not to create laws that deny law abiding citizens the ability to defend themselves. Criminals will not be deterred by any such laws. Rather, the answer is proper and robust enforcement of appropriate gun laws now on the books. Furthermore, the proper way to combat crimes in our communities is to ensure that those who commit them are properly arrested, convicted and incarcerated for their crimes.

That might not be so questionable if the nature by which the questions were asked were consistent, but of course they were not.  According to the survey, all people surveyed heard two of the questions similar to what I quoted, and then were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statements.  The problem comes with people put into the “green” and “not green” groups.  People in those groups were “randomly” divided in half, with one half being presented a green or not-green statement before the two questions, and the other half being presented a green or not-green statement after the two questions.

My question is thus, What purpose does it serve to ask those surveyed if they agree with the random questions prior to asking them the “green” or “not green” questions?  And why ask half the green question after the two random questions, and the other half before?  If this is some attempt to randomize the results, I don’t see the benefit gained, but I do a see a benefit is one were trying to skew the results.  Given the obvious partisan wording in the two “green” statements (see below), isn’t it at least possible that people who agreed with certain random questions that favored a Democrat slant might be given the “pro-green” statement on purpose, as opposed to randomly and vice-versa for Republicans?

Additionally, respondents were asked their party affiliation, but no indication in the survey results was given as to when this question was asked.

Whether or not my questions have legitimate basis or no, the nature of the survey lends credence to the suggestion of impropriety on the part of the surveyors.  No attempt was made to justify, nor explain, why a random half was asked the green question before the two random questions, and the other half after.  No data was presented to show whether there was a statistically significant difference in the results of those two groups (which given the sample size, were rather large).

Nevertheless, the most egregious portion of this survey was the nature of the “green” and “not green” statements.  The 6 “random” statements were rather vanilla – all showed a slant to some degree, but none would ever be mouthed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews.  Compare with the “green” statement:

“Like most Americans and most of the residents of our great State, I believe that global warming has been happening for the last 100 years, mainly because we have been burning fossil fuels and putting out greenhouse gasses. Now is the time for us to stop this by ending our dependence on imported oil and coal to run our cars and heat our houses. We need to begin using new forms of energy that are made in America and will be renewable forever. We can build better cars that use less gasoline. We can build better appliances that use less electricity. And we can make power from the sun and from wind. We don’t have to change our lifestyles, but we do need to reshape the way our country does business. We need to end our long-term addiction to polluting the environment and instead let American genius do what it does best – transform our outdated ways of generating energy into new ones that create jobs and entire industries, and stop the damage we’ve been doing to the environment.” [emphasis added]

Pretty standard pro-green right?  Now, check-out the “not green” statement:

“There isn’t any real science to say we are changing the climate of the earth. The science on global warming is a hoax and is an attempt to perpetrate a fraud on the American people. Climate science is junk science, and global warming is a manufactured controversy. I don’t buy into the whole man-caused global warming, man-caused climate change mantra, and I believe that there’s not sound science to back that up. We must spend no effort to deal with something that is not a problem at all. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening with the cap and trade bill that Congress has considered. I oppose the cap and trade bill. Cap and trade is a job killer and damages our economy. We should not invest in windmills and solar panels as alternative energy sources. Instead we should continue to focus on our traditional sources of energy: coal, oil, and natural gas. We should expand energy production in our country, including by continuing to mine our coal, doing more drilling for oil here at home.”

That is about as hardcore “not green” as one can get (well, they didn’t mention Gore, but damn close).  Not many candidates would verbalize that last statement, even if they believed it.  Plus, no mention whatsoever of nuclear?  Someone that opposed to global warming would have at least heard of nuclear power right?  Wonder why the Stanford surveyors left off the least polluting of the “traditional” energy sources?

The “green” statement sounds flowery and future oriented, like a far off visionary seeing a bright shining America leading the world once again.  The “not-green” statement is just plain mean.  Full of negative statements and evil polluting technologies, the candidates unibrow furrowed in anger that his evil Big Oil brethren might lose a penny to Big Solar.

Whether the survey is suspect or not, there is a sad statement it makes on politics in general.  Here is part of the conclusion:

The present findings have interesting implications for candidates’ campaign strategies. If we first assume that elections will be won and lost mostly by attracting the votes of Independent citizens whose votes cannot be predicted by their party affiliations, our results suggest that candidates would do best to take green positions and would hurt their electoral chances by taking not-green positions.

What a jaded statement.  It does not matter if a candidate believes in global warming or not, all that matters for his “campaign strategy” is to take a green position.  That’s not fair to Stanford, it’s not really jaded, they were just doing what they were paid for.  Oh, you didn’t know?  Yeah, they were given a National Science Foundation grant of $200,ooo to do this study.

It’s nice to know we are funding research that teaches politicians how better to lie to us.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 12:49 pm

    Those kind of grants are part of the “investment” in education that Obama says it is so essential even if it increases our deficit since we have to borrow that money for the grants.

    All while the universities are overflowing with cash in their tax-free foundations while they increase tuition.

    • July 6, 2011 4:57 pm

      Yeah, I feel much better knowing education was invested in such a beneficent manner. =P

  2. JustFacts permalink
    July 6, 2011 5:25 pm

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

  3. Otis P. Driftwood permalink
    July 7, 2011 4:58 pm

    I’m sure that a survey by Stanford was used only in the Bay area – not exactly a hotbed of
    conservative values or ideas.

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