20 July 2015, COIN, A Tale of Two Opinion Polls: As the old adage goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics – and the failure of UK pollsters to predict the outcome of the General Election earlier this year certainly did nothing to challenge this idea. Whether due to the influence of so-called ‘shy Tories’, or simply an outdated and unrepresentative method of phone-polling, the lesson was clear: individual surveys must be taken with a pinch of salt. Question-wording, sampling, timing and the method of administering a survey can all have a big impact on the result. And two polls released this week documenting global views on climate change illustrate this point perfectly.
The first – from the respected Pew Research Centre – was reported with the headline ‘climate change seen as top global threat’. More than 45,000 people across 40 countries were asked how concerned they were about a variety of international issues. Strikingly – and perhaps surprisingly given the lack of prominence given to climate change in most Anglophone nations – climate change came out on top. While US, European and Australian respondents were most fearful of ISIS and were often divided on climate change by political values, levels of climatic concern were so high in Latin America, and parts of Africa and Asia, that globally climate change was the leading issue.
A few days later, the climate-sceptic blog ‘Watts Up With That’ gleefully reported a similarly super-sized survey of global citizens, ‘My World2015’. Totting up the online votes of a staggering 7 million plus people, it captures the priorities of people from around the world, including many millions of people from countries with low incomes. When framed as a personal priority, rather than a global threat, climate change (perhaps unsurprisingly) comes last – after issues like ‘a good education’, and ‘better healthcare’. Read More here