Voosen on Krosnick on Public Perceptions of (Climate) Scientists Who Advocate

There was an interesting article from Paul Voosen in Greenwire the other day: Climate: Scientists struggle with limits — and risks — of advocacy. I came across it on Judith Curry’s blog (Just the facts, please). Voosen talks about a not-yet-published study by Stanford psychologist Jon Krosnick:

Krosnick’s team hunted down video of climate scientists first discussing the science of climate change and then, in the same interview, calling for viewers to pressure the government to act on global warming. (Out of fears of bruised feelings, Krosnick won’t disclose the specific scientists cited.) They cut the video in two edits: one showing only the science, and one showing the science and then the call to arms.

Krosnick then showed a nationally representative sample of 793 Americans one of three videos: the science-only cut, the science and political cut, and a control video about baking meatloaf (The latter being closer to politics than Krosnick might admit). The viewers were then asked a series of questions both about their opinion of the scientist’s credibility and their overall beliefs on global warming.

For a cohort of 548 respondents who either had a household income under $50,000 or no more than a high school diploma, the results were stunning and statistically significant. Across the board, the move into politics undermined the science.

The viewers’ trust in the scientist dropped 16 percentage points, from 48 to 32 percent. Their belief in the scientist’s accuracy fell from 47 to 36 percent. Their overall trust in all scientists went from 60 to 52 percent. Their belief that government should “do a lot” to stop warming fell from 62 to 49 percent. And their belief that humans have caused climate change fell 14 percentage points, from 81 to 67 percent.

Krosnick is quick to note the study’s caveats. First, educated or wealthy viewers had no significant reaction to the political call and seemed able to parse the difference between science and a personal political view. The underlying reasons for the drop are far from clear, as well — it could simply be a function of climate change’s politicization. And far more testing needs to be done to see whether this applies in other contexts.

I was glad to see Voosen go on to discuss the study’s implications with Dan Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project. As a Kahan fanboy, I was already saying, “yeah, but…” as I read the interpretation Krosnick appears to be applying to his study’s results, and it was good to see Kahan’s perspective represented in Voosen’s article, even if he (Kahan) was characteristically circumspect about getting into a detailed criticism of a study that he hasn’t seen (since it hasn’t actually been published yet).

We’re still arguing about whether the elephant is more like a writhing snake or a solid tree trunk or a flapping sail (No! It’s like an elephant!), but it’s good to get some data to help us focus on the elephant’s actual characteristics.

7 Responses to “Voosen on Krosnick on Public Perceptions of (Climate) Scientists Who Advocate”

  1. shcb Says:

    The study hasn’t been published yet but they already have the headline they wanted.

  2. knarlyknight Says:

    This is the part you should be concerned about shcb:

    For a cohort of 548 respondents who either had a household income under $50,000 or no more than a high school diploma, the results were stunning and statistically significant. Across the board, the move into politics undermined the science.

  3. shcb Says:

    Yeah, that did interest me, I can’t wait for the study to come out. I wonder if they broke it down into people that make significantly more than $50,000 but don’t have a degree, people like me. If they didn’t that is a little telling. It is also interesting that 30% are in the over 50k/only hs education, I wonder if that is in proper proportion to the population, I suppose it could be.

    In any case it really doesn’t surprise me, I think part of the reason that people that certainly have the intelligence to have excelled in college but didn’t go is that they have a propensity to do it themselves at their own pace, rather than get bogged down by the slowest learner in the class. I think that trait also tends to make us less trusting of professor types, unless those professor types have real world experience, which is why I spent my college years in a trade school, it was just a better fit for my personality. I spent enough time after high school to have gone to college for 3 years it wasn’t like I went to work in the salt mines the day after I graduated.

    I guess I had better figure out how to get a notification when this study comes out so I can read it.

    I was just thinking, I’m not in that group, I have more than a HS education and I certainly make more than 50k.

  4. shcb Says:

    Actually, in today’s world, from what I understand, I might have graduated with two associates degrees. depending on the school and course some Vocational Degrees are also seen as Associate Degrees.

  5. shcb Says:

    also I wonder if they broke out people with degrees making less than $50k Hmm, the plot thickens and the no one has read it :)

  6. shcb Says:

    Just a couple things I noticed in the Voosen piece, he uses the term “belief” in AGW several times in the beginning of the piece, I thought that was an interesting use of words, not knowledge, but belief. Then there was this paragraph

    Take the hand-wringing about science education that accompanied a recent poll finding that 46 percent of the United States believed in a creationist origin for humans. It’s a result that speaks to belief, not an understanding of evolution. Many surveyed who believed in evolution would still fail to explain natural selection, mutation or genetic variance, Kahan said, just as they don’t have to understand relativity to use their GPS.

    So, the people that believe in evolution are doing so based on a trust of their experts, scientists, just as the people that believe in creationism base their beliefs on their experts, priests, ministers, etc. With neither group doing much research on their own.

    I don’t know what that means, I just think it is interesting.

    Somerville is continuing his efforts to improve communication from scientists. Another Bali declaration is unlikely, though. What he’d really like to do is get trusted messengers from different moral realms beyond science — leaders like the Dalai Lama — to speak repeatedly on climate change.

    So now he wants religious leaders to help out, religion can’t be trusted, is untrue, is a bunch of crock, until you need it to advance your agenda.

    “[It] may well be that it is a problem that is too difficult for humanity to solve,” he said

    No, it isn’t too difficult to solve, we just haven’t done it yet, we don’t know how. It wasn’t impossible to make steel in the bronze age, not because we didn’t have the elements, not because we weren’t intelligent enough, people were as intelligent then as now, we just didn’t have the knowledge. Even when we did have the knowledge we didn’t have the ability until to make it viable as a commodity for another 1500 years or so. Throwing money at it in 400bc wouldn’t have helped, trying really, really hard wouldn’t have helped, we just didn’t have the idea yet, we didn’t have the supporting technology. But it wasn’t because it was too difficult.

    I started the process on a number of patents today, some of them as old as 5 years. Now would more money have sped that up? In some cases probably, if I had a team of worker bees there were a couple that would probably be on the market right now, but since it is just me and I’ve had 3 or four other new products to develop they just got put behind, but there was one that I have worked on to some degree every year during that whole time, I just now figured out how to do it, it wasn’t money, I haven’t gotten smarter, I just finally found out all the ways to not make it.

  7. shcb Says:

    Obama said about the Aurora shootings today

    Even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living,

    I hope that goes down as one of his better quotes, it’s a good one.

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