October 27, 2009
Lies, damn lies, and opinion pollsBy Allan Nadel
As a life member of the Sierra Club, I enjoy a subscription to their bimonthly magazine. A small item in the Nov/Dec issue caught my eye: the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) surveyed 19 countries asking, "How high a priority should addressing climate change be for your government?...on a scale of 0 (not a priority) to 10 (very high priority)." Not surprisingly, considering our "slacker mentality," the United States ranked dead last, with a score of 4.7. Let's see how some other contestants fared, countries whose people apparently care far more about Planet Earth than our own benighted citizens:
Mexico, 9.1 (top score!) According to the World Bank,
Mexico Child Link provides more detail:
But not all Mexicans are poor. In 2002 Mexico ranked 15th in the world in terms of income inequality, right between Burkino Faso and Zambia. Mexico City, home to almost 20% of Mexico's population, has a serious problem with pollution
But Mexicans want their government to do more about global warming!
Also well ahead of the United States is Nigeria, with a score of 7.8. In addition to global warming, Nigeria has other concerns:
PBS recently reported:
But Nigerians want their government to do more about global warming!
Russia's score is 7.4. In Russia, alcoholism is bad, and getting worse. The 35,000 deaths from AIDS in 2007 was several times that of all of Western Europe. But this erstwhile superpower's biggest problem is that it's vanishing: The average age of death for Russian men is 60, compared to 76 in other European countries, and the gap in life expectancy between Russia and other developed countries has steadily risen for the last several decades. Although Russia's "main problem" is high mortality in middle age, infant mortality is higher than all other developed countries except for Moldova, Bulgaria, and Rumania. Furthermore, half of all pregnancies to Russian women end in abortion, which is actually an improvement from the 1990's, when it was two thirds. Thus the net reproduction rate is just over half the replacement rate. Combined with an increasing mortality, the Russian Federation is depopulating at a rate of one million people per year. A loss of 14 million working age people is predicted to occur between 2009 and 2025.
But Russians want their government to do more about global warming!
Egypt's score is 7.2. According to this 2007 article
But Egyptians want their government to do more about global warming!
Let's not even talk about Iraq and the "Palestinian Territories." This is so far-fetched, I'm afraid that if you asked people there about global warming, they might die laughing.
So: Mexicans, Nigerians, Russians, Egyptians-beset by poverty, pollution, corruption, disease....are all clamoring that their governments acts more forcefully about-global warming! Are the people in these countries insane? Wouldn't clean water, basic health care, etc. be a higher priority?
Let's find out more about this study. According to their website,
PIPA initiated and manages World Public Opinion
which links to the actual study and its questionnaire/methodology (pdf). Apparently WPO doesn't conduct the polling itself, but contracts this out to its "Research Partners" which comprise the World Public Opinion Network (pdf). All of this is supported by many of the usual suspects: the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, Ben and Jerry's Foundation, and so on. Another one of its sponsors is the United States Institute of Peace. Are you familiar with the USIP? Here's its history:
In 1979, a provision was successfully added to the Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriation Bill for the establishment of the Commission on Proposals for the National Academy of Peace and Conflict Resolution...A nonpartisan group consisting of appointees named by President Jimmy Carter and the leadership of the House and Senate, the Commission worked for over a year and half.
So apparently USIP is paid for by American taxpayers, which may help to explain its new digs on the northwest corner of the National Mall. It has a Public Education Center; I wonder if they have an exhibit about the Kellogg-Briand Pact. You can learn more about the USIP here in English or in Arabic (both pdf) but in no other language for some reason.
Anyway, back to PIPA and WPO.org. Here are some more of their recent studies: After finding last year that all 22 countries surveyed preferred Barack Obama to his Republican opponent by a 4:1 margin, he is now the world's most trusted leader, with Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations, you ignorant rube) first runner-up. An interesting headline, from just last month: Global Poll Shows Support for Increased Government Spending and Regulation. Even more recently: Key Health Care Proposals Get Bipartisan Public Support Despite Debate's Increased Political Polarization:
(Funny, I don't recall much Democratic support for tort reform and cross-state purchasing in the various bills working their way through Congress.)
So let's sum up. Taxpayer dollars fund the United States Institute for Peace, which funnels money to WorldOpinion.org, which contracts out to WorldOpinion.net for "opinion polls" which are really nothing more than propaganda suggesting worldwide support for various leftist causes. I'm sure that WPO can defend their polling methods as objective and scientific but, at least in the case of the global warming survey, their conclusions are so preposterous that their methods must certainly be faulty.
The wasted tax money is chump change (pdf). The real tragedy is this: millions of people are suffering from grinding poverty, pervasive corruption, and premature death. But apparently the readers of Sierra Magazine and the consumers of World Public Opinion drivel have such an insular, myopic viewpoint that they can believe their concerns about climate change are widely shared throughout the world. And so the pressing, day-to-day problems of people are ignored, in favor of costly solutions to global warming.