Survey on attitudes towards climate science

Stephan Lewandowsky is conducting a survey on attitudes towards climate science and related issues and is interested in responses from readers of pro-science blogs. Go here if you are interested.

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The questions seemed to be picked in hopes to see "climate change deniers" "denying" also everything else there is a consensus at. I think far less of us skeptics disagree with those than you think.

By the way, if a scientist says passive smoking at a bus stop (=smelling the tobacco) doesnt cause lung cancer, does hequalify as a "denier"? I mean its a whole another thing than sitting in a smokey bar, where the lung cancer link is far more obvious...

Doyou want totry to writethat again without the oddpauses and fracturedenglish, Tim?

I find surveys really irritating when they don't provide a neutral response. For a lot of those questions all you're getting is which less extreme response I choose at random to represent no opinion - especially stuff like the Oklahoma bomber question (seriously, I know nothing about that).

The survey title just says 'science'!

Regulated capitalism is OK.
And free market socialism.

The point being that any existing political ideology isn't going to survive any future climate change scenario, whether we mitigate or not.

It has the usual failing of such questionnaires, but stands a fair chance of demonstrating whether or not the instinctive classification of deniers is valid. The main weakness is not the design, however, it's the administration. This online survey format is very insecure. I could easily script a bot to take it a hundred times or more with responses designed to skew the results.

I needed a "don't know" choice rather than being forced to say probably one way or the other who was involved in assassinating who.

Kenendy's head as pushed the wrong way for the Book Deposit.

I agree with Tony; at first, I thought the survey was bogus. Of course, I haven't seen the thinking behind the survey so I cannot comment with much authority, but some of the questioned seem rather ill-posed. And why no 5-point Likert scale? The whole online survey format is also methodologically suspect.

I would have thought that inviting Deltoid readers to participate in a questionnaire of this sort is likely to produce statistically skewed results since it likely to encounter a preponderance of respondents who are "pro-science" rather than "skeptical of science".

By Anonymous (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

Tony @ 5
The survey is hosted by an on-line survey company who have an option to prevent multiple responses (presumably by tracking ip addresses). A bit of Dunning-Kruger at work - assuming that you know better than the people to run the online survey company - even though it is clearly their specialty.

Not very well-written.
What on earth is that question about Coca-Cola all about? I don't even care enough to Google it.

As for "Does burning fossil fuels warm the atmosphere measurably", the answer is surely "no": burning fossil fuels releases CO2, which is responsible for causing a measurable rise in atmospheric temperature. The heat from the burning of fossil fuels itself is not particularly consequential.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

[Anonymous said:](…) "a preponderance of respondents who are "pro-science" rather than "skeptical of science".

What does that even mean? That I should be sceptical that water may not quite contain both hydrogen atoms?
That pixies may be playing tricks with the photons emanating from my computer screen?
Or - oh I get it now - those pesky scientists may well have been lying about all that too!

So how do you find living in the dark ages?
I expect there's plenty of credulous morons being directed there to keep you company, these days.

I didn't like the lack of a don't know option, either. I knew what the Coke question was about, but Timothy McVeigh? Remembering that he was involved with various right wing crazies doesn't help me with remembering whether or not they were involved in the bombing itself.

I s'pose the questions were "designed" to check on what people "believe" regardless of what they know, but some of it made me uncomfortable.

I have to agree that the survey needs a little tightening.

For example, I reached the third question on the first page:

3. The free-market system may be efficient for resource allocation, but it is limited in its capacity to promote social justice

where one could agree with one half of the sentence and disagree with the other.

I thought too that in a scientific survey the question:

36. Out of 100 medical scientists how many do you think believe that the HIV virus causes AIDS?

should have been structured to avoid the viral tautology.

And what of:

39. Out of 100 people in your neighborhood, how many do you think earn more than you do?

- does the question include non-working parents, for example, who do not work simply because they have a wealthy circumstance? I understand what he's trying to do here, but there are potential distortions in how the respondents rate their economic standing.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

I didn't mind the economic standing questions. As a pair they work quite well. Many people have very little understanding of just how poor poor people are and how astoundingly rich others are.

Eh, it was pretty easy to figure out what they were looking at. Perceived SES vs. support of "free market" ideology vs. subscription to conspiracy theories vs. acceptance of well formed scientific consensus.

I had problems with some of the phrasing of the free market questions, but most of the rest were reasonably done.

A lot of the conspiracy questions were strangely USA centric. The Tim McVeigh question was difficult for me (disagree). He was mixed up with the "Michigan Militia" part of the "patriot" movement in the US. AFAIK, they were not neo-nazis, just garden variety far right USA "patriots", just a little bit farther right than the teabaggers. Racists? Yes. Idiots? Yes. Nazis? No. I remember that on the day the attack happened the press was reporting "muslim terrorists"... I said, you just wait, it will be one of those militia idiots. I was right.

In answering the "free market" questions, I just assumed an unregulated market and answered either disagree or strongly disagree.

If I am correct about what they are looking for, the "PZ Meyers" effect should be minimal.

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 29 Aug 2010 #permalink

This seemed to be a pretty ordinary survey.
Difficult to criticise the infamous Oregon petition without putting this survey into the same bucket.

Except the Oregon Petition was duplicitous.

Made up with something that looks like a paper in Nature when it wasn't (even down to dates, page numbers and volume, which doesn't make sense if it's just a mock-up).

This one may be just as hard to discern the purpose of and may have as much validity in its results, but it isn't actually *lying* about itself.

IMO, still a fair bit of blue sky between them.

It is a seriously weird questionnaire. I stopped doing it when I realized that the UWA logo directed one to the kwiksurveys site rather than UWA. Is it some sort of attempt to spish? Quite apart from the inept conspiracy questions that donât allow âno ideaâ as an answer, and the two-part questions where you might have different response to the two parts.
BTW - they say the experimenter is Charles Hanich, not Stephan Lewandowsky as you put Tim....

I definitely thought the survey was poor and tendentious, fwiw.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 30 Aug 2010 #permalink

the questions are fine.

lack of a neutral reply is a good idea. people tend to choose such an option too often, to avoid making decisions.

a "don t know" button might have been a good idea, but isn t really necessary.

the good thing about conspiracy theories is, that you will recognise it, even without ever heard about it!

i am looking forward to the results of this one. but i fear very few denialists will take it.

I find it amusing that I think it is more likely that there are aliens in US military bases, and that the CIA conspired to kill Kennedy, than climate science being wrong.

Wow: PNAS, not Nature.

Mike, although I didn't go into details, it would be correct to assume that as a highly experienced programmer I'm aware of how online surveys protect against multiple submissions, and my very simple script would circumvent them. It would be illegal and unethical to use such a script and I'd never do so, but the skills required are not difficult to acquire.

"spish" was the noise people made on tasting the New Coke.
Probably this whole thing is a cola marketing survey.
I dunno. I got through it, but it hung when I tried sending it, so likely didn't get counted.

I submitted my honest responses to the questionnaire. There were some good insightful questions and a few strange ones too. I note that the questionnaire was designed for readers of pro-science blogs. In my experience it's very apparent that certain readers of pro-science blogs are gormless idiots and Stephan's admirable study may be skewed somewhat.

I look forward to the final results.

By Steve Brown (not verified) on 30 Aug 2010 #permalink

Tony @ 25. The hole is getting deeper. Best advice is stop digging.

The survey is a tedious and transparent piece of agit-prop, designed, no doubt, at a UWA struggle meeting.

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 30 Aug 2010 #permalink


it likely to encounter a preponderance of respondents who are "pro-science" rather than "skeptical of science".

What sense does "skeptical of science" make, considering that science itself is skeptical. The same as saying skeptical of skepticism.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 30 Aug 2010 #permalink

I did the survey - I liked the page of conspiracy theories.

I disliked the word believe. I don't believe in CO2 trapping IR causing AGW. I trust the science experts, their differing voices speaking in unison, their research, and their evidence. Belief doesn't come in to it.

Hank Roberts, with his RAS Syndrome whatever that is, is probably one of those people from a TLA acronym agency who use jargon to convince people that things like the HAARP Project aren't endangering us all.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

The survey is very poorly written. It has a number of what we call "double barreled" questions in which there are two propositions asserted; you might agree with one but not for the reason proposed, or agree with one half but completely reject the other. One cannot answer these items without being misleading about what one really thinks.

That's supposed to be solved by asking LOTS of questions. That artifact will exist in all questions and the answer to one question that is shaded off-colour will shade in an earlier question with what you REALLY mean.

It's why a good survey is DAMN hard and really long.

Most surveys are not worth shift except on simple questions like "Is Barak Obama a Nazi Communist Muslim Extremist? Yes or Hell yes!"


I have to admit that I've seen worse surveys, though I don't think it's the best example I've seen. The question of whether or not to include a neutral response option is a bit of a vexed issue, and isn't as simple as it seems. Like sod says, when you include neutral or don't know options, people are disproportionately more likely to use them, especially if there's some social stigma associated with the answer that they would have given had the neutral option been absent. So there's a sense in which including neutral options acts as an excuse for people not to think too hard about the question. Worse, it can bias people against giving certain types of answers. On the other hand, there's an equally compelling argument that it really is the case that people just don't have any opinions, knowledge or beliefs relevant to some questions, and no matter how hard they think about those questions, they can't give a sensible answer. When that happens, people get annoyed, which is never desirable; and from a methodological standpoint, it over-inflates your estimates of the number of people who hold weak beliefs. Given that there are real arguments each way, there's some disagreement on this topic: my personal view is that if you are going to remove the neutral response options, you should use more than 4 points in the response scale: if you use 6 or 8 options, it makes it easier to use the shape of the response distribution as a (weak) cue that a particular question actually had a lot of people making "near-neutral" responses because they don't have any real knowledge.

As for the question choice, I thought the "burning fossil fuels causes climate change" phrasing was probably the right choice - it's scientifically clunky, since the mechanisms involved are much more complex (as everyone on this site knows better than I do), but if the survey is targeted at a general audience it's very rarely a good idea to be technical. You'll just confuse and annoy people rather than elicit actual opinions. And if you do know the technically correct version, then most (but not all) respondents will endorse the clunky version, though often with a certain amount of irritation. So the trade-off becomes "irritate 1% of the sample because you're scientifically imprecise" versus "irritate 40% of the sample because you're being too sciency and talking over them". If your goal is to elicit sensible answers from as many people as possible, the answer is pretty obvious - irritate the small proportion of people who happen to have technical knowledge. Oddly, technical precision is actually methodologically irresponsible in this context.

On the other hand, I think the "conspiracy theory" section is too heavy-handed to be useful. There's no chance that people won't figure out what the survey is looking for here, and everyone knows that "conspiracy theory!!" is pejorative. So I suspect that a lot of people who actually do think that climate scientists are rigging the data will hide their beliefs, even in an anonymous survey, because they're worried that they're going to be painted as conspiracy theorists. Maybe with good reason, maybe not. Curiously, there's actually ways of getting around this issue: the classic solution is to ask people to privately flip a coin, and then endorse the conspiracy theories if it's heads, answer honestly if it's tails; that way the researcher can't know which specific people actually believe the conspiracy theories, *and* the respondent knows this. So those people who actually do believe them feel safer (quite correctly) and are more likely to respond honestly. It means that you need a bigger sample size for your survey, since it adds a lot of random noise to your data, but it's often a good trade if it reduces the rate of people hiding socially-undesirable beliefs. On the other hand, there are issues with this method too. Probably it's the sort of thing that they'd have looked at while piloting the study. Without knowing all the details about what other risks they were worried about when designing it, it's hard to have strong opinions.

Anyway, I really must stop procrastinating. I'm running late for work.

Hi Wow,
I would agree that the Oregon petition was deliberately misleading.
However both surveys were sent out in a non controlled manner.
I also first saw the survey in a source that many folks would 'believe' to be political (I personally see it as reflecting scientific honesty). Such a 'political' source could be argued as only delivering a particular sample viewpoint.
I think such quality surveys are highly vulnerable to attack from the ignorance brigade that seizes upon such side issues and promotes them to global prominence.

What attitude could there be except its all just a money making scam. Have a look at how the UNIPCC fabricated the data and is now saying it is not a science organisation ROFL

And now that it is published... ?

I'm too busy to take this survey, what with reds under the beds and sightings of Elvis to follow up. Does the survey require a clipping of hair to verify identity? Is this Lewandowsky person even real? I wasn't here.

You were free enough to raise from the dead this thread, dickwad.

A drive-by by cohenite without lies about climate? Weird.

I reckon you'll find this is what has triggered it.

The Telegraph did another of these 'you're all morons' things aimed squarely at their regular readership last year, IIRC. (Or was that the Daily Mail? A distinction without a difference, at any rate!) One can scarcely imagine the level of cynicism required to work in that "news" room.

(Speaking of The Daily Mail - watch at 0' 54" in this preview.).

Seem unfair to give cohenite the credit... I have an awaiting moderation comment 4 hours earlier. Can't imagine what was immoderate about my comment.

sod, at August 30, 2010, 7:07 am:

i am looking forward to the results of this one. but i fear very few denialists will take it.

Well, it took exactly two years, but history will show that sod was bang on the money. No surprise, really, but sod deserves a gold star nevertheless.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 29 Sep 2012 #permalink

Kenendy’s head as pushed the wrong way for the Book Deposit.

You're mistaken. See ... 'How could Kennedy's head go "back and to the left?"' ... follow the Dealey Plaza link.

Note that Jakerman's comment and the formation of his belief is exactly like that of the deniers in re various claims they make about AGW. We all do this. The difference, hopefully, is that Jakerman is a genuine skeptic who will follow that link if he ever sees it, absorb the scientific studies reported there, and will modify his beliefs. But cognitive dissonance and the motivations for belief in a conspiracy to kill JFK are powerful, and it can take time to abandon any specific belief supporting it, and far longer to abandon the whole conception, with people switching from one refuted claim to another (all of which, I think, are treated at that site, which led me to abandon my decades-long belief in a conspiracy).