Lies, damn lies, and opinion polls

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,

In 2002, half the population in Mexico was living in poverty and one fifth was living in extreme poverty... the rates for access to electricity, water and sanitation were 98, 90 and 80 percent, respectively. 

Mexico Child Link provides more detail:

The bottom 40% of the population share only 11% of the wealth...Many families live in total poverty and children are compelled to work on the streets in order to supplement the family income... ...Amnesty International has highlighted tortures and disappearances within Mexico in recent years....The Mexican standard of living is way below the US or Europe...There is little or no welfare state and no unemployment benefit. ... it is officially claimed that unemployment is only 2%-3%. A more realistic employment estimate would be 40% unemployed or underemployed.

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

...from pervasive incomplete combustion including low-temperature household cooking and heating and from vehicle emissions.  In 1998, for example, the total volatile organic compounds emissions from the MCMA is higher than that from Los Angeles, the most polluted mega-city in the United States.

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:

Despite total earnings of over $400 billion USD in oil revenue since the early 1970s... the vast majority of its 140 million citizens have seen little benefit from this legacy of wealth. Nigeria ranks 159th out of 177 on the UN Human Development Index. More than one third of the population lives in extreme poverty-defined by the World Bank as earnings of under $1 per day-while 9 out of 10 Nigerians live on under $2 per day. Most people lack access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, and health care...The combination of poverty, poor governance institutions and environmental damage has also spawned a violent insurgency in the Niger Delta

PBS recently reported:

Transparency International has consistently ranked Nigeria among the world's most corrupt countries.  Much of the shady business takes place in or is related to the Delta -- a part of Nigeria that has earned an unfortunate superlative of its own: one of the five most-polluted spots on Earth, according to a recent assessment by a team of international experts...Even so, pollution is not the top concern for the average Delta inhabitant. Hunger is.

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

The proportion of Egyptians living in absolute poverty has 19.6 percent from 16.7 percent of the population... One in every five Egyptians cannot meet their basic living needs...Egypt's goal is to cut the proportion of people living on under $1 a day to 12.1 percent by 2015, from 20.2 percent now, a U.N. document said.

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

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) studies public opinion on international issues. PIPA is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), University of Maryland.

PIPA initiated and manages World Public Opinion international collaborative project whose aim is to give voice to public opinion around the world on international issues.

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  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:

...there is bipartisan support for numerous key reform proposals, including a limited public option, new constraints on the health insurance industry, tort reform, and cross-state purchasing.

(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, which contracts out to 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.