The Sciences

More on that Smithsonian Poll: The Rise of Denial

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJul 7, 2010 12:05 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

I've looked a bit more closely at the Smithsonian/Pew Poll that I blogged recently, and I realized I overlooked one of the most important (and dismal) findings. Once again, this poll shows that global warming denial is on the rise:

In an exception to the pessimism about the environment, the poll found a ten-point drop in the percentage of respondents who say the earth will get warmer: from 76 percent in 1999 to 66 percent in 2010.

And moreover--and consistent with my remarks in the Washington Post


--this is happening among Republicans:

That trend “is very consistent with data we've gathered on the issue of global warming more generally,” Keeter said. “There are many possible explanations, but one thing is quite clear: there is a strong partisan and ideological pattern to the decline in belief in global warming.” The vast majority of the change since 1999, he said, has occurred among Republicans and independents who lean Republican.

Yup--the issue has gotten more partisan, more polarized, and so people have made up their minds based on ideology first, and data second. Sadly, that's how we think. And how we operate. Want to know how bad it gets? Just check out this Brendan Nyhan paper


An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.

"Extensive literature" indeed, just see the citations in the paper...which is one reason why the findings of the American Academy workshops and my report on them

are so unsurprising to many social scientists and science studies experts.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.