Matthew Nisbet points to some new Gallup data that I believe supports an argument I have made in the past: that lack of public understanding of climate change is not a problem the news media can fix. From the Gallup report:
While the percentage of Democrats who view the news about global warming as being exaggerated has been fairly stable, at 23% in 1997 and 18% this year, the percentage of Republicans taking this view has increased dramatically — from 34% to 59%. The result is a 41-point difference between adherents of the two major parties. Growing skepticism about news coverage of global warming clearly goes hand in hand with Republicans’ declining belief that it is already occurring.
In other words, to the extent that the news media provides information that conflicts with their political viewpoints, people are more likely to distrust the news media rather than change their views. This is consistent with my experience on issue after issue as a journalist. This is not a function of the political views of the actors involved. Depending on the issue, actors on both the left and the right, as well as actors on one side or the other of issues that do not fall on a left-right divide, routinely choose to distrust the media rather than change their views when the media presents information that is in conflict with those views.