P.U. To Pew (and the NYT)

Pew, which played a serious but hidden role in the press for the free speech limiting campaign finance reform act (likely soon  to get a thorough clipping by the Supreme Court), is at it again in a study on science and public attitudes  published in today's New York Times and fisked by the sharp-eyed Tom Maguire.

The idea of the article appears to be how ill-informed the public is on scientific issues like evolution and global warming. But both the survey sponsors and the publication are playing games.

First there is the part of the studythe paper neglected to publish because the scientists apparently take a view the paper does not endorse:

Interesting - the factoid the Times forgot comes from a Pew chart - 70% of scientists (but only 51% of the public) favor "building more nuclear power plants.

Secondly, the study suggests, inter alia, that the public's views on global warming are discredited by scientists -- which the NYT makes much of.

And eventually the Times gets to this caveat:
The survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest scientific organization, involved about 2,000 members of the public and 2,500 scientists drawn from the rolls of the science advancement association, which includes teachers, administrators and others involved in science as well as researchers.

This leads Tom to speculate: "Hmm - I wonder of a survey of economists would also include teachers and administrators.  Where is the respect?"

If you see Pew or NYT on any survey story, move on. It's more likely designed to put a fat thumb on the scale than it is to provide an honest snapshot of public views on an issue receiving public attention.
Pew, which played a serious but hidden role in the press for the free speech limiting campaign finance reform act (likely soon  to get a thorough clipping by the Supreme Court), is at it again in a study on science and public attitudes  published in today's New York Times and fisked by the sharp-eyed Tom Maguire.

The idea of the article appears to be how ill-informed the public is on scientific issues like evolution and global warming. But both the survey sponsors and the publication are playing games.

First there is the part of the studythe paper neglected to publish because the scientists apparently take a view the paper does not endorse:

Interesting - the factoid the Times forgot comes from a Pew chart - 70% of scientists (but only 51% of the public) favor "building more nuclear power plants.

Secondly, the study suggests, inter alia, that the public's views on global warming are discredited by scientists -- which the NYT makes much of.

And eventually the Times gets to this caveat:
The survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest scientific organization, involved about 2,000 members of the public and 2,500 scientists drawn from the rolls of the science advancement association, which includes teachers, administrators and others involved in science as well as researchers.

This leads Tom to speculate: "Hmm - I wonder of a survey of economists would also include teachers and administrators.  Where is the respect?"

If you see Pew or NYT on any survey story, move on. It's more likely designed to put a fat thumb on the scale than it is to provide an honest snapshot of public views on an issue receiving public attention.