The UK Election And Another Lying Climate Poll
The Guardian has a piece with the headline: “Climate crisis affects how majority will vote in UK election – poll” reporting on a survey which claims that two-thirds of people agree that the climate emergency is the biggest issue facing humankind, with only 7% disagreeing.
They go on to claim that:
More than half of those polled (54%) said climate change would affect how they would vote, with the proportion rising to 74% for under-25s.
The Guardian typically gives no link to the source, but the poll’s findings can be consulted at the website of the survey’s client, ClientEarth, here, and it’s an object lesson in how to mislead without actually lying in opinion research.
Remember the old adage: “Opinions are like amygdalae. Everyone has one or two, but no-one knows why, or what they’re for”?
The survey starts, in best Cook/Lewandowsky fashion, by establishing the existence of a consensus, asking respondents:
“Do you agree or disagree that:
– Climate change is an issue that will affect us and future generations;
– Awareness of climate change is growing;
– People are becoming much more fearful and anxious about climate change;
– The climate emergency demands much more urgent action;”
Once they’ve been softened up with talk of fear, anxiety, emergency, and urgency, it’s little wonder that 63% are willing to assent to the final binary choice:
– Climate change is now the biggest issue facing humankind
.. from which it follows that it will affect my voting habits, choice of a pension plan, and anything else you care to mention, your honor.
[Why not One Opinion Poll to Rule them All, with just one question:
“Do you agree with what the authorities tell you everyone else believes, or are you the kind of miserable contrarian who has no friends on Facebook and gets his information from Russian bots and climate denier sites?”]
The only other mention of the poll I could find last night was at “Circular – the Website for Resource and Waste Professionals” – and a circular site for waste professionals is where it belongs.
The Waste Experts pick out the finding that:
Britons want financial institutions, companies and government to do more to act against climate change and are willing to put “planet before profits”, according to ClientEarth. Brits want their pensions and investments to minimise climate impacts and support a sustainable economy; far more than those who only seek to maximise financial returns – reveals new survey by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, released today (30 Oct).
Which figures, given that the charity ClientEarth is a bunch of lawyers who will take you to court if you stand up for reasoned scientific discussion in the face of consensus opinion.
But let’s go back to the politicalized part of the poll, which is my cue to steer the discussion towards the election.
I follow polling on voting intentions at the Wiki site. I did the same for the US election, which is why I was one of about half a dozen people in the world who wasn’t surprised by Trump’s victory.
(One of the key aspects of the modern world is the vast amount of data available; the huge number of so-called experts paid to interpret it; and the minuscule size and practical invisibility of the intermediate corps of curious citizens capable of examining the data and sharing their wisdom with their fellow citizens – though we do our best. Which brings us straight back to the Climate Question of course.)
Wiki has a list of all the relevant polls of voting intentions, plus an excellent unsmoothed graph showing all the bumps, including the extraordinary June/July event, one month after the European parliamentary election, when the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, and Brexit were neck and neck at 20-25%, with the Greens peaking at 8%.
By August the polls had reverted to something more normal, with Tories and Labour leading over Lib Dems and the Brexit Party; Movement has been minimal over the past extraordinary six weeks, but that may change.
People distrust polls, so it’s worth making a couple of points in their favor.
An intention to do something (vote for w, x, y, or z) is quite different from an opinion, which may be based on a considered analysis of the question, or the first thing that comes into one’s head.
Surveys of voting intention should, therefore, be more reliable, less dependent on extraneous factors, than surveys of opinion.
A quick look at the estimate for the gap between the leading two parties in the right-hand column of the Wiki table tends to confirm suspicions of polls, since it shows a Tory lead over Labour which varies from 1% to 16% over the past three months, with no clear trend.
The impression that the polls are zigzagging erratically is a bit unfair for two reasons: first, the gap doubles the normal margin of error of ~3%; and secondly, polls by individual polling companies show greater internal consistency than the total of all polls.
Somebody’s not doing it quite right, but, interestingly, it’s not because of bias on the part of the company or client. Survation for the pro-Tory Daily Mail has shown consistently lower scores for the Tories than Opinium, who works for the pro-Labour Observer.
On the question of a significant trend, Opinium, with seven polls since the beginning of September, show a positive trend to the Tories, from 35% on 4-6 September to 40% 23-25 October.
However, YouGov, which has done twelve polls in that period, mostly for the Times, shows no clear trend in the Tory vote.
At the time of writing, just one poll has been published since the announcement of an election, by Survation.
They show Conservatives on 34%, up 2% from their last poll twelve days ago; Labour also up 2% on 26%; Lib Dems down 2% on 19%; and the Brexit Party down 1% on 12%. Nothing very surprising then.
Oh, and the Greens, whose score has varied erratically from 2 to 7% over the past eventful six weeks, are now at 1%.
Over half the population may tell the lawyers at ClientEarth that the climate emergency will affect how they vote, but that’s not what the polls say.
Read more at CliScep