The Sciences

The Outlier

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJun 15, 2010 3:14 PM

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The war between the global warming pollsters is on. Last week, in a NYT op-ed that was widely discussed in the media, Stanford's Jon Krosnick asserted that

national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people. But a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.

Not so fast. Yesterday, in a NYT letter to the editor that seems to have gone virtually unnoticed in the blogosphere, the Pew's Andrew Kohut says that Krosnick's survey is marred by faulty methodology. This latest poll, according to Kohut, used words that encourged a positive response:

this is known in the polling world as acquiescence bias.

Kohut admits that none of the many questions pollsters use to gauge public attitudes on global warming are perfect,

but almost all, except Mr. Krosnick's, show a significant decline in belief in climate change. Pew Research not only found fewer in 2009 seeing solid evidence of global warming, but also fewer calling it a very serious problem and fewer naming warming a top priority for the president and Congress.

Now I happen to think the big news on Krosnick's survey revealed more important and uncomfortable truths that climate advocates would rather not deal with. But because there is such a tussle over these polls, I think it's worth drawing attention to Kohut's NYT letter, including his final thrust:

Far from being definitive, Mr. Krosnick's finding is but one indicator and an outlier at that.

How did people miss this yesterday? Kohut's pushback seems to have escaped even Morano's notice, who surely would have trumpeted it on Climate Depot had he seen it.

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