Oxford University has recently sought to enhance its imperiously stated reputation for academic excellence by dabbling in the murky world of opinionology. I may have just made that word up, but it does feel like an apt label to apply to the pseudo-scientific number-crunching that one normally associates with the consensus-mongering intrigues of the likes of John Cook. From what I have seen, it seems actually quite an easy discipline to master, so much so that I wish I had chosen it as a career path, back in my formative years when notoriety and influence seemed a tempting alternative to integrity and obscurity. Who knows, if I had chosen that path, I too could have been an Oxford don riding the climate change gravy train by engaging in opinion polling of world-saving importance. But I didn’t, and so I am reduced to envious bitching in an article that will be read by just 300 people – if I’m lucky. Never mind, I hadn’t anything better to do today, as it happens.
The opinion poll that has interrupted my lockdown ennui goes by the name of ‘The People’s Climate Vote’. That all sounds very democratic, I’m sure you will agree, but the fact is that nothing, and no one, was being voted upon. Instead, it was simply yet another poll canvassing the viewpoint of a large group of people on the subject of climate change. Basically, it was just a stocktake to see how effective the many years of propagandizing in schools has been to date. And whilst we are at it, why not egregiously misrepresent the results to hammer the point home. According to the BBC, the poll shows that, “Despite the pandemic, almost two thirds of people around the world now view climate change as a global emergency.”
I think it was Johnny Cash who once sang that a hammer will do exactly what you tell it to. In this instance, the hammer has fallen on the heads of anyone who doesn’t care to observe the process by which the BBC’s startling conclusion had been arrived at. It is really very simple.
Firstly, you need two apparently prestigious organisations to get their heads together to conduct a poll – let’s say the United Nations Development Programme in conjunction with Oxford University. Then you make the poll the biggest one of its type ever undertaken, say 1.22 million people. Then, just to make sure you get the answers you are looking for, only distribute the poll questions in adverts for mobile gaming apps. Downplay the obvious bias introduced by such a sampling plan by glibly noting that “people of all genders, ages, and educational backgrounds took part”. Finally, having canvassed the opinion of a group that is grotesquely skewed towards the 14-18 year group, get the BBC to run with a headline that deliberately misinforms the reader by claiming the results represent the opinion of all demographics around the world. There you go – a master class in opinionology. John Cook would be envious.
To be fair, I suspect there was nothing disingenuous behind the original intent of the pollsters. By deliberately targeting computer gamers, one can gather data that indicates just how scared the recently educated yoof are compared to society’s insouciant wrinklies. This is an important analysis for anyone who is keen to check on the value for money they are receiving from the huge investment in the climate change curriculum. And I have to say, the results were suitably impressive:
“Across all countries, 64% of participants [X-Box jockeys] saw climate change as an emergency, requiring urgent responses from countries.”
“Overall, younger people were more likely to agree with the view that rising temperatures were an emergency, with nearly 70% in favour. For people over the age of 60, this dropped to 58%.”
According to Cassie Flynn, strategic adviser to the UNDP, the reasons for this are straightforward:
“People are scared, they are seeing the wildfires in Australia and California, they’re seeing the category five storms and in the Caribbean, they are seeing flooding in in Southeast Asia, and they’re looking around them and they’re saying, this is a real problem. We have to do something about this.”
On the contrary, people are not seeing these things and coming to their conclusions, they are being shown all of these things and then being told it is a real problem and they have to do something about this. That’s the beauty of education. Back to Cassie:
“When it comes to demographics, something that we saw very clearly was that there is a high correlation between a level of education and belief in the climate emergency. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to believe that there is a climate emergency. And this is really, really powerful, because it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it doesn’t matter your age, education really, really is important.”
Actually, Cassie, as your own figures clearly show, age does matter. It isn’t an education that is important here, it is a recent education. That’s what is really, really important. Because, as I said earlier:
A hammer will do exactly what you tell it to.