The Public and the Climate

Here’s the last year’s worth of answers to a Washington Post poll question about whether or not the government should regulate greenhouse gases even if it costs you an extra 25 bucks a month.  As you can see, in the most recent survey support for regulation jumped from 39% to 55%.

Over at NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez takes this as evidence of trickery on the Post’s part.  In previous polls they asked how you’d feel if your electric bill went up $25, but in the latest poll they asked how you’d feel if your energy bill went up by $25.  “And so 55 percent wanted to feel good,” she says, “and could do so with the less direct question.”

I think I’d take a wee bit different lesson from this: polls like this are lousy indicators of true public opinion.  Asking about “energy costs” isn’t nefarious, it’s just more accurate since cap-and-trade affects all energy, not just electricity.  Still, the change in public opinion is surprisingly strong anyway, which mostly goes to show that there are a lot of people who simply don’t have very strong opinions on this topic.  And that in turn means there’s a pretty wide scope for public opinion to be influenced.  How are we doing on that?

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