This week has brought more proof that the news media, taken either as a large group of individual media or a much smaller group of large media conglomerates, are actively facilitating those who want to question global warming.
Stanford Research Institute’s Political Psychology Group, under the direction of the estimable Professor Jon Krosnick, released a study on either Wednesday or Thursday that shows that 74% of all Americans believe the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years and 75% believe that humans have been substantially responsible for the new heat. An overwhelming 86% want the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution businesses emit. The survey polled 1,000 people.
In both the news release about the study that was released on Thursday and the Op/Ed piece by Professor Krosnick the day before in the New York Times, the Professor analyzes other studies by CNN, Gallop and Pew that have, on the surface, shown greater public doubt on global warming. Professor Krosnick demonstrates that these studies asked indirect or confusing questions. For example, Gallup asked “Thinking about what is said in the news, in your view, is the seriousness of global warming generally exaggerated, generally correct or is it generally underestimated?,” which is a question about media reporting not about beliefs in global warming.
How did reporting on this study fare in the news media? If we count the release of the study as the day the Times article appeared, then on the second day the survey had 22 hits on Goggle News and the third day (today) had 37 hits. If we count the distribution of the news release as the first day of the announcement, then the second day’s total was 37.
Let’s compare this coverage to the release of the George Mason University study that 50% of TV weather personalities don’t believe global warming. You know, TV weather personalities, half of whom have never studied weather, the other half of whom are meteorologists who are not required to study climatology. I’ve talked about this survey twice before, on March 30, 2010 and two days later. This survey had second day Google News totals of 96 and third day totals of 108. The news media actually perverted the goals of the study, which were to measure a barrier to communicating to the public effectively about global warming issues.
So depending on how you jigger the numbers, the news media have given from 259% to 290% more coverage to the misunderstood survey from the much smaller and lower ranked George Mason than it has given to the clear and precise survey by the much more prestigious Stanford University. No offense to George Mason, but facts are facts.
Why do the news media persist in overplaying the statements of disbelievers in global warming and underplaying the statements of proponents? Why is it even an issue? Global warming is a fact. The real issue is what countries, businesses and each of us individually is going to do about it.
Some might say that my Google News results are skewered by the large right-wing news media led by Rush, Sean and Glen, but even if you remove these wing-nuts from the numbers, there still seems to be extensive coverage of “if it exists” in what is considered the “mainstream” news media. Moreover, when you consider the small number of media owners nowadays and the way the main stream media cover the right-wing media as a story in and of itself, I’m beginning to believe that it may no longer be accurate to make a distinction between right-wing and mainstream media.
By keeping up the discussion on whether global warming exists, the news media slow down consideration of how to respond. I’m sure many readers will remember how long the cigarette industry tried to stonewall the undeniable proofs that smoking or chewing tobacco products causes cancer. I don’t remember the news media being quite so accommodating to the tobacco industry once the facts were in. But then again, as much as the tobacco companies advertised and lobbied, the oil companies, electrical utilities and large manufacturing, metal extraction and chemical industries do more.