Killing The Planet Out Of Ignorance
by Deacon Blues
There's been a little buzz in the media today about a just-released Gallup poll on the public's views regarding the environment. Gallup's spin on their poll was that the public is less concerned about air pollution, water pollution, and climate change in 2015 than they were in previous years. This same Gallup poll found that all Americans are more positive about the environment than at any time since 2001.
Gallup notes that part of this is due to political polarization:
A final factor is the politicization of environmental issues. This is exemplified by the sharp political polarization in views of global warming. And although concern about environmental issues is lower among both Republicans and Democrats since 2000, it is down more among Republicans. Across the six issues measured in 2000 and 2015, the percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who worry "a great deal" is down an average of 20 percentage points, compared with an average 10-point decline for Democrats and Democratic leaners.
Democrats worry more than Republicans about all of the issues. Notably, Democrats are more worried about global warming now than they were in 2000, perhaps reflecting the shift in the focus of the environmental agenda toward this issue.
For those who follow the media coverage of the environment, there's probably little surprise at these poll results. Although it may sound counter-intuitive that the public thinks the environment is getting better, several factors may be in play. First, since this is a Gallup poll, it could simply be a crappy poll. As McClatchy noted in their story,
(D)espite increased media coverage over the last several years, concern for climate change remains nearly identical to the poll's March 2013 and 2014 results - 32 percent of Americans say they care a great deal about it, and another 23 percent say they care a fair amount. At the same time, it's worth paying attention to what questions a poll is asking. A January 2015 Pew Research poll asked what issues should be a top priority for President Barack Obama in 2015. Thirty-eight percent of Americans said global warming, a rise of 9 percentage points from the previous year. By that measure, concern over climate change is still on the rise. Pew interviewed 1,504 people over the phone from Jan. 7-11, 2015. the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
For the record, the Pew poll has a smaller MOE than the Gallup poll.
Second, with most of the GOP and Tea Party getting their news from Fox News, and with Fox News' demonstrated lies and untruthfulness in their coverage of the environment, it isn't surprising that seniors and Republicans are less and less concerned about the environment and more and more doubtful about climate change. Besides, when Fox spends the whole day trashing the government, why wouldn't half the electorate distrust official and scientific information?
But bashing Fox News is too easy and only a part of the story. The media itself insists on covering environmental issues, especially climate change with "balance", allowing anti-science climate deniers equal standing with the 93% of scientists who agree about climate change. News consumers themselves are woefully uninformed and admittedly so about climate change. And the news media itself doesn't help matters with how it covers environmental issues. Aside from the media's refusal to call out climate change deniers as the cranks they really are, the way the media covers environmental issues contributes to public apathy:
Whatever the environmental problem or source of information, news coverage is often criticized for failing to provide causes, context and “mobilizing information” that empower citizens to act. (Researchers noted) that descriptions and frames used in media coverage are “highly selective” (and) lamented nearly four decades ago that the public may develop knowledge of environmental problems but lack a vision of how to solve them, creating a sense of “well-informed futility” among the general public. In other words, some media coverage is simply less useful to people than other coverage because it does not discuss any likelihood that problems can be solved, and promotes apathy by failing to connect problems with nonprofit or government organizations, and potential individual action.
(Other researchers) analyzed press coverage of global warming, noting that its “apocalyptic framing” depicts a process “outside the purview of human agency.” A sense of subjective knowledge and personal efficacy, which could be strengthened by information provided by the media if it is useful and told in a “coherent” way, may be the missing link between news coverage of environmental problems and an individual's perceived ability to act regarding environmental risks.
So yes, a Gallup poll wants us to believe that the public is less and less concerned about the environment, even though other (more credible) polls tell us otherwise. Yet at a time when the objective evidence right in front of us every day tells us that our weather is getting more extreme and our time has run out, the conservative corporate media over the last four decades has ensured that half the electorate, the older and whiter part of the electorate, doesn't give a damn.
You know, the part of the electorate that always votes. That's why the Earth is a goner. And you can thank the corporate conservative media and the elites.