Does CNN's Miles O'Brien cherrypick poll data? Apparently so. I thought Newsbusters readers might be interested in an early peek at this forthcoming piece by David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research (full disclosure: I work there and I'm married to him) in which O'Brien is shown doing just that in the cause of smearing global warming so-called "skeptics" and the conservative Heartland Institute.Writes David:
CNN's Miles O'Brien recently asserted that the Heartland Institute "desperately wants us to believe" there's a conspiracy to distort information about global warming.
O'Brien said so in his Tuesday story about the Chicago-based group's March 2-4 international global warming conference held in New York. The trouble is, no one from the Heartland Institute said anything about a conspiracy. Without the power of telepathy, O'Brien would have no way of knowing what Heartland Institute wants. So why did O'Brien have conspiracy on his mind? Perhaps because O'Brien was busy distorting the global warming debate at the very time he was mocking this straw man of his own creation. For example, O'Brien cited a Yale University poll showing that an overwhelming number of Americans - 83% - are concerned about global warming. To find the poll, O'Brien had to be pretty creative. For one thing, he had to track down a poll more than a year old while skipping over other more recent ones, including another Yale poll just last September, showing less concern over global warming. Yale's September poll found 62% of respondents believe urgent action on global warming is needed and only 48% believe that most scientists agree that global warming is occurring. O'Brien also had to be creative in finding a global warming poll that wasn't weighted to reflect the actual composition of the population. Respondents were screened for age to ensure they were 18 years of age, but nothing else. O'Brien didn't mention that 71% of those polled also indicated that they are "often interested in theories," that 67% "like to lead others," that 26% have already purchased a vehicles getting 35 mpg or more (yet the average fleet mpg is miraculously still 20.2 mpg); and that 66% had a negative view of the overall state of the environment. Little wonder than 83% of those polled were concerned about global warming! Seventy-one percent of those respondents, by the way, self-identified themselves as "intellectual." Must have been an interesting list they polled. Finally, O'Brien fails to note that those expressing concern about global warming included people concerned about natural global warming, too. At issue is not all global warming, but anthropogenic - human influenced - global warming. The poll isn't the only instance of O'Brien being misleading. He cites Dan Fagin, a journalism teacher at New York University, saying that "skeptics have changed their tune as evidence started stacking up against them" - as though changing one’s views as new evidence emerges is an indication of a character flaw. It is, in fact, an indication of integrity. Scientists on both sides of the global warming debate - although not enough - have refined their projections and analyses as data has improved and their understanding of the climate increased. That's part of the scientific method. O'Brien then cited Fagin again, saying, "A decade ago they denied global warming even existed." Absurd. No one suggested anything of the kind as everyone recognizes that global warming is what makes all life on our planet possible. The Heartland Institute has showed no sign of being "desperate" to prove a conspiracy to misrepresent global warming information. But, given O'Brien's report, perhaps it should be.