Yale Research Survey: Majority Of Americans Don't Trust Major Newspapers

Majority also believe there is too much sex on television, that the world was literally created in six days as stated in the Bible and that the government should encourage school prayer.

Got you. I just demonstrated a common tactic of today's activist media. The play book is simple, hook you in with a leading headline/byline combo and use that as foundation to present poll results within the limiting confines of my own personal agenda. While the headline and byline are technically correct you will soon see that those touting the Yale poll completely ignore these "less than liberal" results while spicing up the responses about global warming through the use of definitive sounding catch phrases such as "tidal wave of public sentiment". (yeah that makes it true)

I first came across mention of the Yale "research" poll in a post by Scientific American editor Christopher Mims on the official SciAm blog. The discussion was filed under the liberally leading headline "Reality Check: 83% of Americans Now Say Global Warming is a Serious Problem". The hook being used by Mims and others who cite the study is an emphasis on the poll result that claims 63% of adults believe that the United States "is in as much danger from environmental hazards, such as air pollution and global warming, as it is from terrorists."

In what can only be considered a tidal wave of public opinion, a new Yale research survey reveals a significant shift in public attitudes toward the environment and global warming. Fully 83 percent of Americans now say global warming is a "serious" problem, up from 70 percent in 2004....

Most dramatically, the survey of 1,000 adults nationwide shows that 63 percent of Americans agree that the United States "is in as much danger from environmental hazards, such as air pollution and global warming, as it is from terrorists." [all emphasis mine]

Mim's picked up on this "very-much-worth-checking-out" information from The Sietech Blog whose author makes certain leaps of faith when interpreting the poll results. For instance Sietech states that "The survey indicates that while 70 percent of Americans believe that President Bush doesn’t do enough for the environment and should do more, many citizens are ready to act on their own." all of which is true. But they skip over the fact that less than half of "Americans" believe we should protect the environment at the expense of higher consumer prices. This simple response blows holes in many statements coming from Sietech regarding the poll.

You should note that Scientific American, Sietech and the Yale researchers emphatically characterize the study as representative of the American population despite the fact that those polled under represent the minority population of the United States. The poll consisted of the following demographic makeup, 79% White, 9% Black and 8% Hispanic. These numbers are a bit out of line with the 2005 Census Bureau estimate that the U.S. population is 66.9% White, 12% Black and 14% Hispanic. Sorry to be so exact here but we are supposed to be talking science aren't we?

Even more disproportionate is the number of educated people represented in the poll as compared to that of the country on a whole. The U.S. Census Bureau states that only 24.4% of Americans have graduated college with a bachelor’s degree or higher (age group +25 which is representative of the poll being cited). The Yale poll however consisted of a sample with 41% having completed a 4 year degree or higher and a whopping 69% having minimally attended 1 year of college level education. In other words the Yale poll is highly skewed to include people who have spent an uncharacteristic amount of time on University campuses. This leads me to believe that the poll was less likely to have been a random sample as stated and more likely to be representative of a cluster along the education sector; a sector that undoubtedly leans to the left.

Regardless of those numbers one can not determine if a change in the polling demographics would amount to more or less agreeing with the consensus cited by the pollsters. What we can determine though is the apparent bias of those applauding the report by noting that they have conveniently overlooked poll results that don’t represent liberal ideals.

For instance, while the pollsters tout that 63% of those polled believe that our country is in as much danger from environmental hazards as it is from terrorists they don’t actually highlight the fact that the net result is broken down between 39% who “Mostly Agree” and 24% who “Somewhat Agree” with that leading question. You judge for yourself how much of a tidal wave that really is.

Let us imagine for a minute that perhaps the poll is representative of a tidal wave shift in public sentiment. Then what conclusions are we to draw from the following poll results?

  • There is too much sex on television today: 61% Mostly Agree and 21% Somewhat Agree for a net result of 82% respondents agreeing with that statement.
  • The federal government should encourage prayers in public schools: 36% Mostly Agree and 17% Somewhat Agree for a net result of 53% respondents agreeing with that statement.
  • Increase the tax per gallon of gasoline: 6% this it is a “Very Good Idea”, 14% this it is a “Good Idea” and a net 77% believe it is a Bad Idea.

Perhaps the biggest head scratcher for those on the left was the Bible question that undoubtedly was posed in the hopes that they could get a twofer on both global warming and a knock against Bible thumping conservatives at the same time. Woopsey, when asked "As the Bible says, the world literally was created in six days" 42% Mostly Agree and 16% Somewhat Agree for a net result of 58% respondents agreeing with that statement. (note that more respondents mostly agree with this statement than with the global warming/terrorist statement above).

This is just a sample mind you. But there is more. Respondents were asked to answer the following two statements with the same agree/disagree type response.

    [STATEMENT A] Protecting the environment should be a top priority, even if that means higher consumer prices. [STATEMENT B] Protecting the environment is important, but it is more important to keep the economy growing.

The answers were split down the middle with 47% agreeing that they would pay higher consumer prices to protect the environment and 46% saying no. So even though most of the respondents fear global warming less than half of them are willing to do something about it if that means higher prices such as what would result from the Kyoto treaty.

But I saved the best for last as it has to do with the mainstream media and how much trust respondents put in the veracity of their reports.

I am going to read you the names of some public figures and organizations who may be sources of information about environmental issues. For each, please tell me if you trust them a lot, trust them somewhat, trust them a little, or do not trust them at all as sources of information about environmental issues. If you haven't heard of them, just tell me and we'll move on.

  • Nightly Television News: 12% trust them A lot, 37% trust them Somewhat, 24% trust them a Little and 23 trust them Not At All for a net result of 50% Trust and 47% Don’t Trust.
  • Major Newspapers: 9% trust them A lot, 36% trust them Somewhat, 27% trust them a Little and 27% trust them Not At All for a net result of 45% Trust and 54% Don’t Trust.

Wow, only 9% of respondents have a strong sense of trust for the information in major newspapers followed by the same 12% with a strong amount of trust in television news. I doubt we'll hear too much on those numbers. They might even be low enough to squelch the survey results as a whole!

None of these numbers surprise me after understanding the demographics of the poll. It appears that the pollsters polled a sample of mostly 25 and over college educated adults; 8 out of every 10 of them being white. The only surprise in the result is that someone is actually pretending to be surprised.

There is no better way to gauge the degree of bias in the mainstream media than by reading the personal writings of editors and correlating that with the slant of news reports in the outlets they oversee. I put more emphasis on this point with regard to Scientific American and other sources of "science news" because we have seen the line blurred where polls and consensus are being presented as scientific fact; two diametrically opposed points unless you are actually reporting on the science of polls. (Just ask Galileo).

You can read the entire topline poll results here, Yale presser here.

This report specifically concentrates on those results that rarely get covered by the MSM. There were many poll responses that lean to the left of the ideological spectrum but I figure you can go just about anywhere to get those results. My point is that poll results are often interpreted in the eye of the beholder; reader beware.

Terry Trippany has a Masters Degree in Computer Science, is not a statistician and understands that consensus does not equate scientific fact. Despite his many extra years as a member of the university community he specifically does not buy into the "consensus" of anthropomorphic causes behind global warming; especially when that consensus is achieved over the threat of diminished research funds and the lack of peer review.

You can read more of his writing at Webloggin.com.

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