We want Richmond to address what?
My bullshit-o-meter immediately went off the scale.
But there it is. As Cory Nealon of the Daily Press puts it:
Virginians want Richmond to address climate change, according to pollHmm.
Nearly 80 percent of Virginians believe state government has at least some responsibility to address climate change and improve the environment, according to a new Christopher Newport University poll.
That, folks, is the first tip-off. If the poll is as deceptive as that sentence, I think we know how the poll results were obtained. Let's dissect it and look at what it really means - and doesn't mean:
"80 percent of Virginians believe state government has at least some responsibility to address climate change and improve the environment ..."
Because of the use of the conjunction "and," it can legitimately be read this way:
"80 percent of Virginians believe state government has at least some responsibility to improve the environment."
Well, I want to meet the 20% who don't believe that.
Read again, with different emphasis, tell me if this holds true:
"80 percent of Virginians believe state government has at least some responsibility to address climate change."
We all know that won't fly. It would be a lie and everyone knows it.
So let's go to the survey questions and see what's going on here. First:
• [U]sing a letter grade of “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” or “F,” how would you grade the overall quality of the natural environment in VIRGINIA today – A grade of “A” means excellent and a grade of “F” means very poor. What grade would you give Virginia’s environment?
89.1% responded with "above average" to excellent" when grading the environment.
See any startling call to action in that?
Neither do I.
• Thinking ahead 10 or so years from now, do you think the natural environment in VIRGINIA will be much better, about the same, or much worse?
75.4% of Virginians believe our "above average to excellent environment" will be "about the same" to "much better" in years to come.
Three quarters of us.
Stop the presses.
The survey then looks at specific geographic regions of the commonwealth, including these nearest to my heart;
• Mountain ranges such as the Appalachian or Blue Ridge
81.4% of respondents rated their "health" "average" to "very good."
Four-fifths of us? What am I missing here?
• Forests and public lands
80.2% average to very good.
• Parks and open spaces
86.4% average to very good.
Are you seeing anything shocking so far?
Then we get into that portion of the survey that I think is so deceptive that it deserves condemnation:
• As you know, Virginia has had its most severe winter in many years this year, including record snowfalls. Has this year’s winter made you feel [LESS] concerned about climate change, [MORE] concerned about it, or has it made no difference in your views about whether climate change is happening or not? [rotate choices]
Fully 2/3rds of the respondents answered that there was no change in their concern. But what to make of the 27.9% of those who said the harsh winter we just went through made them more concerned about "climate change"? Well, your first thought might be that there are a lot of nuts roaming the streets of our fair state. Cold weather would make people more concerned about global warming? (my transposition, of course, to make the point) Have they gone batty?
There is a more fair assessment of this result. Some people took the question literally (as I'm sure the poll author would have wanted them to, ahem). Whether intentionally or not (what might have been the motive?) nowhere in this poll do we get a definition of the term "climate change." Don't you think that might be important?
Here's the deal: We all know what the environmentalists among us think it is. But to those who have a deep, abiding love of the English language, it simply refers to ... weather. Weather over a period of time, to be precise.
So, let's reread that question and restructure it to reflect that distinction:
"Virginia has had its most severe winter in many years this year, including record snowfalls. Has this year’s winter made you feel more or less concerned about the weather?"
Who in their right mind, at least of those who survived the horrific winter of 2009/10 and maintained a right mind in doing so, didn't become more concerned about the weather that we were all knee-deep in for weeks?
That's the fatal flaw in this survey. Undefined terms from which flawed and therefore preposterous conclusions are drawn.
Finally, there's that question that the Daily Press reporter made mention of:
• Ok, shifting focus a bit, how much responsibility do you think Virginia’s government has to create policies that could address the issue of climate change and improve the state’s environment? Would you say a GREAT DEAL of responsibility, SOME responsibility, LITTLE responsibility, or NO responsibility?
Great Deal 37.2%
Unsure (vol.) .9%
Dk/no answer (vol.) .7%
UNFAIR. And/or SLOPPY. There are two questions mixed into that one question.
(1) Do you believe the government should address the issue of climate change?
(2) Do you believe the government should improve the state's environment?
That's like asking: "Do you believe Governor McDonnell should declare an annual Confederate History Month and do what he can to prevent the state from falling into the ocean?" How do you answer that with a YES or a NO?
Most Virginians, I'd be willing to wager a massive sum, would answer NO to the first part aimed at "climate change" and YES to the second dealing with our environment.
Not knowing for sure what "climate change" even means, and not being real sure how state government could possibly address it in any meaningful way anyway - other than to raise taxes to "address it" - does anyone really believe the people of Virginia want "climate change" "addressed"?
As to the environment, however, hell, we all want it to be as clean and as healthy as possible. Right?
Look, you can peruse the survey yourself and decide if there's anything to it. And you can determine on your own whether it's worth two cents.
I have my opinion.
Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy can call me and obtain it - along with some instruction on how to conduct a legitimate public opinion survey - anytime. My number's in the book.