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Earth Science Politics

Political Ideology Shapes How People Perceive Temperature 193

Posted by timothy
from the and-who-wants-t'-know? dept.
benfrog writes "In what likely isn't that much of a surprise, a study has shown that political ideology shapes how we perceive temperature changes (but not drought/flooding conditions). (An abstract of the study is here. 8,000 individuals were asked about temperatures and drought/flood events in recent years, then their political leanings. Answers regarding drought/flood events tended to follow the actual changes in conditions, while answers regarding temperature tended to follow people's political beliefs."
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Political Ideology Shapes How People Perceive Temperature

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  • by SpryGuy (206254) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:41PM (#40703833)

    ...when looked at by political groupings, did any particular political grouping's perceptions of the temperate correlate more closely to reality than the others?

    i.e. was there one or more political ideologies that was more divorced from reality than the others, by any meaningful statistical deviation? Or were they all off, just in different directions based on political ideology?

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:43PM (#40703855) Homepage Journal

      What do you think you're doing! This article is about an inflammatory correlation. If you don't limit your observations, you might be in danger of committing Science!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:46PM (#40703905)
      Republicans: "It can never be warm enough, as long as it's profitable."
      Democrats: "It's already way too warm."
      Libertarians: "Don't worry about how warm it is at my house, just worry about your own house."
    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:49PM (#40703941)

      To quote TFA:

      In fact, the actual trends in temperatures had nothing to do with how people perceived them. If you graphed the predictive power of people's perceptions against the actual temperatures, the resulting line was flat—it showed no trend at all. In the statistical model, the actual weather had little impact on people's perception of recent temperatures. Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right, but its magnitude was dwarfed by the influences of political affiliation and cultural beliefs.

      And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you'd expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn't gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up.

      So nope, no matter what your political beliefs, your perception of the temperature is wrong (unless, possibly, you have neutral beliefs, I don't see anything that mentions that).

      • by slew (2918) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:16PM (#40704317)

        My personal opinion is that this whole exercise isn't much different than asking a person if they thought the price of milk or the price of gas went up more in the last decade (or similar question).

        I'd wager that most people wouldn't have any clue because the random person doesn't pay any attention to these things, so they would guess. That guess would likely not depend at all on any variable except their political beliefs.

        • As inflation has been a constant in my lifetime, I'd assume most people expect that the prices of most things will always go up. The relevant question here is whether people's perception of the strength of their money is influenced by how politically content they are at a given time.
          • You missed his point. The question he proposed was, "Did the price of gas or the price of milk go up more in the last decade?" He believes that few if any people would actually know the answer, so they would answer based on something other than the actual price of either. He is further postulating that the same is true of the temperature, very few people have actually tracked the changes in temperature over time, therefore there answer to questions about changes in temperature are based on their political b
      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right

        Really?

        Let's play a game. Let's ask people if they believe the following statement is true:

        Education continued to have a positive impact on whether they got it right

        Some people will say yes, and some will say no. Do you believe that the ones who say no will primarily on one side of the political spectrum or will the "No's" be equally divided?

        On which side of the political spectrum will you find more "No's"?

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        I'm neither here nor there on temps going up or down, but I certainly can't help but notice dramatic shifts in weather patterns are happening more frequently.

        and for the record I never refer to something as Global Warming, but as Climatic Disruption.

        • Or perhaps that more attention is being paid to dramatic shifts in weather patterns.
          • by Shavano (2541114)
            Certainly as populations have increased more people ( though not a greater proportion) are in harm's way.
      • by Shavano (2541114)
        No they're probably wrong then too. They said that overall there's no correlation between what people think about temperature and actual temperature records.
    • by BStroms (1875462) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:51PM (#40703961)

      Skimming the article, it doesn't even seem they considered a very real possibility. That political bias doesn't affect how people perceive temperature, but that people tend to answer polls in a way that reflects well on their personal beliefs even if they know that answer isn't entirely truthful.

      • by Greenspark (2652053) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:09PM (#40704227)
        That kind of bias is present in any self-reported survey. The findings should discuss what the population 'reported' and not what they 'believe.' Obviously, the article is also biased in it's title -- declaring that ideology shapes perception. It could also be concluded that perception determines ideology. In one paradigm, your affiliations warp what you perceive, and in another paradigm, you chose to affiliate with those who share your perceptions-- accurate or otherwise. So they need to remember that correlation doesn't imply causality.
        • by PopeRatzo (965947)

          So they need to remember that correlation doesn't imply causality.

          No, it doesn't prove causality. It kind of implies it though, and gives you a very good hint as to which experiments to perform. If you got really sick every time you ate peanuts, your face swelled up and you had trouble breathing - if those symptoms correlated with eating peanuts, you would probably at least try to find out if you actually had a peanut allergy.

          The whole "correlation doesn't prove causality" argument seems to be misunderst

          • by dbIII (701233)

            that you have a model, and your observations either support that model or they don't. As long as observations continue to support that model, it might be useful.

            That's how it is - we don't really understand fluid flow over the full range or how metals behave under load at high temperatures, but we've got a pile of models that we can plug in for different conditions.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:51PM (#40703965) Homepage Journal

      ...when looked at by political groupings, did any particular political grouping's perceptions of the temperate correlate more closely to reality than the others?

      i.e. was there one or more political ideologies that was more divorced from reality than the others, by any meaningful statistical deviation? Or were they all off, just in different directions based on political ideology?

      They gracefully side-stepped this in the Ars article: "And those cultural affiliations had about the effect you'd expect. Individualists, who often object to environmental regulations as an infringement on their freedoms, tended to think the temperatures hadn't gone up in their area, regardless of whether they had. Strong egalitarians, in contrast, tended to believe the temperatures had gone up."

      Basically, the temperature is what you think it is. If you don't believe in global warming then it isn't getting warmer. If you do believe in global warming then it is getting warmer. The thing is, global warming over the past few years is very real, and only one group acknowledged that. The study did not explore the possibility that global warming believers might think that the temperature is going up even if it isn't..

      • Well the fact that they categorized by zip code may indicate an awareness of this. SOME not-insubstantial number of zip codes within the United States had decreasing average temperatures across the last decade, thanks to things like micro climates and the patterns climate shifts actually occur in. It is not unreasonable to presume that people might falsely believe there was a localized temperature increase when there was not. It's not necessary to oversimplify. It would be nice if THE DATA were availabl

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          It would be nice if THE DATA were available and they had GONE INTO DETAIL in the article, but what can you do?
          Well, they were trying to prove a point and the data could probably be interpreted by different parties as disagreeing with the point.
    • Maybe its easier to member things like the house being under water, or there not being rain in 50 something days in an location that averages rainfall multiple times per week is just easier to remember than on average it is 1 degree warmer each day this month than last year or the year before when there is a 15 degree swing on the highs during the month. So when it comes to temperature people fall back on their political beliefs in the accuracy of temperature records, etc.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Since in most areas the temperatures actually have increased slightly, it would seem liberals' beliefs about temperature are on average a little closer to the truth. But there's no evidence that is based on perception of reality. It's based on an ideology that values science coupled with science that says on the whole temperature has gone up.
  • while answers regarding temperature tended to follow people's political beliefs.

    It's been wicked hot lately, so I'm thinking of becoming a Republican and denouncing global-warming to cool things off.
    You can thank me later. Note: I also want a fancy pony - like Mitt. :-)

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      I'm Republican. I can honestly say that's it's been extremely hot these last two summers. HOWEVER I can also honestly say that's it's been extremely cold these last three winters. One of our yard squirrels froze solid.

      So maybe we're experiencing both global warming and cooling at the same time! (Or maybe the earth got thrown off its axis and is doomed..... ala the Hugo Nominated movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire.)

      • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:35PM (#40704549)
        From what I've read, the global-warming theories call for unpredictable temperature swings - hot and cold - as the planet adjusts, so extreme cold at times is expected...
        • by khallow (566160)

          From what I've read, the global-warming theories call for unpredictable temperature swings

          The weather model has unpredictable temperature swings built into it already. It would be disingenuous to claim phenomena which will occur no matter what is somehow dependent on a particular theory.

          • by dbIII (701233)
            The more energy in the system the greater the extremes.
            • by khallow (566160)
              No. That's a hypothesis and not a particularly well founded one. It doesn't explain temperature minimums, for example. I think it's more a propaganda ploy. Weather extremes are what gets reported by the media. So making the claim is an easy way to keep global warming in the news since now you can tie global warming to a constant stream of other news.

              As I note, it's extremely disingenuous to do so since extreme weather happens anyway. It's no different than claiming that a recent bout of natural disasters
              • by dbIII (701233)
                Consider weather in Antarctica. Do not ignore pressure. Read my sentence above again with that or some other example in mind. It should be obvious by then.
              • by tehcyder (746570)
                It should be easy enough to monitor whether there is an increase in weather extremes, without bringing politics into it.

                What so-called sceptics seem to forget is that (most) people who think AGW is true do so because of the weight of scientific evidence, not because they think it's cool. I, for one, would love to see some solid evidence that there are no man made climate change effects whatsoever.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:37PM (#40704587)

        1) Any particular year could just be a fluke. Anyone who claims a hot/cool year is evidence for/against climate change is completely ignorant of basic climate science and/or thinks you are.
        2) "So maybe we're experiencing both global warming and cooling at the same time!" -- That is exactly correct -- the climate is changing. Parts will get hotter, parts will get cooler. The overall trend is up, hence the name "global warming". We're going to lose some arable land but we'll gain some as well. What scares me is sea level rise -- take a look at population density maps over the world to see what I mean.
        3) There is no good faith debate on whether the climate is changing, and practically none on whether it is the result of human activities. But that doesn't mean that every climate scientist with a model knows the future, or that any particular prediction is correct. What we do know for sure is that human activities are having measurable effects on a highly chaotic system on which we depend for the survival of our civilization. I like to keep my experiments in the lab.

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        I'm politically somewhat to the left of Karl Marx, and I can honestly say the weather's been pretty much the same as it's always been. It's been a pretty wet summer, but last year was pretty dry so I guess it all averages out.

        Same as it ever was...

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I can honestly say that's it's been extremely hot these last two summers. HOWEVER I can also honestly say that's it's been extremely cold these last three winters.

        Try living in the UK. The winters are getting colder and wetter. And so are the summers.

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      It's been wicked hot lately, so I'm thinking of becoming a Republican and denouncing global-warming to cool things off.
      It has been much hotter than usual where I live the last two years as well, but not nearly as hot as it was when I was a kid, so given that data I am unable to determine what my political affiliation is.
      Oh, and I call BS on the whole study. Liberals and Conservatives are equally likely to complain about the heat or the cold. All that differs is whether they blame it on Global Warming or
  • I really really really really despise articles that are subjective analysis of data that don't include any sort of access to the data itself. "Trust us the numbers say X" is the single most intolerable statement to a rational human being.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:49PM (#40703937) Homepage

    Basic cognitive dissonance modelling has demonstrated repeatedly that when a person encounters incontrovertible facts that contradict deeply held beliefs, the facts are discarded.

    • by rrohbeck (944847) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:20PM (#40704357)

      I've noticed recently that many people who have kids don't believe in climate change or Peak Everything.
      Of course, the idea that your kids or grandkids will have a much worse life than yourself is intolerable for many.
      Me, I have no children so I can think freely.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        I've noticed recently that somehow a 10 to 15 degree F above normal swing in temperature in a localized geographical error is supposed to be proof of a 1-2 degree F increase in global temps. Any questioning of that seems to be blaspheme and whoever doesn't tow the line is supposed to be stupid.

        Me, I can put aside my biases and evaluate the situation independent of preconceived notions. I can see that weather is not climate and that weather has 100 and 500 year patterns that are influences by other natural f

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192)

      True, but it's worth pointing out that this effect is larger [salon.com] in conservatives. The more a conservative learns about a topic the stronger his preconcieved beliefs are.

      The result was stunning and alarming. The standard view that knowing more science, or being better at mathematical reasoning, ought to make you more accepting of mainstream climate science simply crashed and burned.

      Instead, here was the result. If you were already part of a cultural group predisposed to distrust climate scienceâ"e.g., a p

      • I wouldn't be surprised if conservatives did feel a stronger cultural bias—one gathers that part of their motivation is a value for tradition/culture/pragmatically approved philosophies.

        However, comparing nuclear power and climate change is a rather poor way to measure the difference in scientific receptiveness. For one thing, climate change is innately more ambiguous, trying to approximately a complex and still largely mysterious system with significant error in the models. You can show numerical i

  • by BMOC (2478408) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:52PM (#40703977)
    except when taxes come due, then I feel a lot of cold water on my plans.
  • I think the REAL correlation is people who were polled tended to BELIEVE the stance of the political party they ascribe on climate but having not been swayed by their party on drought/flooding one way or the other simply answered according to their observations.

    or not..
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Well, the other answer is that people answer subjectively about a subjective question and objectively about an objective question. It is pretty hard to deny that a flood or drought is occurring, but the temperature on average changes so little (about half a degree Celcius in the last 70 years) that it comes down to a matter of opinion.
  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @03:59PM (#40704081)
    Look at a political map of the US, and what's the first thing that pops out at you? A lot more conservatives live in the southern US. Most of the places where conservatives tend to live are warm, while liberals tend to live in cooler areas. People in areas that are normally cooler would be more likely to notice an increase in temperature than people in areas that are generally warmer. Personally, I'm used to 80%+ humidity and upper 90s-low 100s myself, so this summer has actually seemed pretty mild in comparison to what I'm used to. But that has nothing to do with whether or not I believe in global warming. It has more to do with the kind of weather I am acclimated to.
    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      That makes some sense although the droughts should put a damper on it.
      In fact, most Alaskans (red state) believe in climate change because it's obvious to them.

    • by pjt33 (739471)

      What would be interesting is to attempt to reproduce this in a different country.

    • by Waccoon (1186667)

      Look at a political map of a state, such as the overwhelmingly liberal Massachusetts. In the west, where there's a huge expanse of rural area, it's almost exclusively conservative. In the east where all the coastal cities are, there's nothing but liberals.

      Hmm... maybe it's just cooler close to the coast, but my money is on lifestyle.

  • by Eevee (535658) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:05PM (#40704163)
    It seems the other way for me. I'm a rather left-leaning type and I say it's 33 right now, but the conservative in the next cube over keeps saying it's 97.
    • by rossdee (243626)

      Your cubicle must be nearer the a/c vent.

      33C is only 91F

      But anything over 300K is too hot.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:11PM (#40704251)

    It's kind of hard to miss a flood when you live in your parents' basement. It gets damp and the sump pump wakes you up at night. But temperature? I'd have to actually go outside to know what it is. Otherwise, all I have to go on is my belief in global warming.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:42PM (#40704627)

    So can I save on air conditioning, by having a cold political ideology in the summer?

    And save on heating costs, by having hot political ideology in the winter?

  • People with a vested interest in the sky falling, notice something that could at the wildest extrapolation mean the sky is falling.

    People without such interest, disregard such signs.

    Or it could be that some are pantywaists that get in a twist over trivia, and some aren't.

    • People with a vested interest in the sky falling. . .

      "Sky is falling" as in "we could cause our only viable ecosystem to spiral into an uncontrollable and unsurvivable climate upheaval"?

      Or "sky is falling" as in "The status quo may be slightly inconvenienced by the need to do something innovative about energy consumption"?

  • Gee. I think a bit of warming would be a good thing. But it has nothing to do with politics. I simply live in the cold north lands. Warming would open up more of our season to being able to grow things. City folk and southern folk don't understand this aspect. Not surprisingly, most liberals come from urban areas.

    I'm pro-Global Warming. Think about it. The greatest biodiversity has been during periods of warming. The greatest die offs, not caused by things like astroids, was during ice ages. Warming is good

  • In other news... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CCarrot (1562079) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:56PM (#40704783)

    Chronological Age Shapes How People Perceive Temperature

    "You just don't get the summers we used to get when I was a lad..."

    Financial Circumstances Shape How People Perceive Temperature

    "Almost froze my ass off last winter, didn't have enough newspapers stocked up since everybody's reading the bloody online bloody news these days..."

    and

    Number of Children / Grandchildren / Pets Shape How People Perceive Temperature

    "Well, Susie has her skating class, then Molly has her hockey game, but Andy and Billy were invited to that Winter Festival / tobogganing birthday party at the same time...oh, and could you walk Rover when you get home?"

    Face it, 'perception' of temperature is a pretty worthless measure overall. Stick with the measurements, assign a margin of error (note: not 'corrections') suitable for the technology / location, and go from there.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @04:57PM (#40704799)

    People who work in well air conditioned offices don't feel as hot as those who have to perfotm manual labor outside, or in less well cooled (and dehumidified) environments

    And people who are very wealthy aren't concerned about global warming, they can just build a new summer home firther north.

  • And it's melting...

    No, it's half empty and it's thawing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... because they are slightly closer to hell.

  • So, research funds are being spent on measuring (and eventually manipulating?) public sentiment? Rather than actually counting tree rings, measuring glacial melt, refining atmospheric and oceanic models, etc.

    This is what is meant by 'science'?

  • Well leeettt's see .... this is the hottest year on record :

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2012/05/climate-weather-warmest-year-on-record-/1 [usatoday.com]

    so I guess people who were motivated by their political ideology to minimize the temperature are what's known as reality-deny fanatics.

    Yeah, that's pretty much all there is to say on that topic.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:03PM (#40706491)

    Oh and just for good measure, this:

    http://act.350.org/signup/reckoning/?akid=2086.624457.CWuv92&rd=1&t=2 [350.org]

    Here's the analogy. We're all on a ship in the ocean. Engineering below has alerted the captain that we're definitely headed for an iceberg. The rich people who are partying on the ship don't want the party to stop.

    Since they're the Big Money on board and have the Big Connections , they have outsized say in what the captain decides to do. They shout down the engineers, accusing them of being jealous of the first class passengers.

    The rest of the passengers are worried but unable to get captain to change course.

    After a while, engineering gets more and more agitated and the passengers can see the panic in their faces. The first class passengers become more even recalcitrant and adamant because now it's a matter of pride.

    The rest of the passengers start quietly meeting amongst themselves, talking in low voices, moving about the ship in small groups.

    You guess how this movie finishes.

    OK times up. It finishes with a lot of well heeled people floating lifelessly in the frigid waters as the ship veers safely past the iceberg with the passengers on board, safe and going home to their loved ones.

    No one is going to let deniers crash this ship and kill everyone on board. There comes a time when no one cares what your "rights" are or if SCOTUS has decided that money is speech or even what fucking SCOTUS says. Civilization at its core isn't based on "civil rights" or "free speech" or SCOTUS decisions. We got by without any of that shit for a few, ten thousand years. It's based on survival. Anyone who threatens survival will find themselves outside of the laws of civilization pretty fucking fast.

    The Constitution is not a suicide pact. If you make people fight for their survival, if you're identified as one of the deniers who drove civilization to the brink of extinction you can pretty well plan on dying a pretty fucking barbaric death, possibly involving blow torches and such like medieval -level implements of torture . It's nothing I'd wish on anyone, but moderate, peace loving, live and let live liberal bunny people like me aren't going to be able to hold back revenge seekers very well. Prominent personalities deeply involved with denialism may want to take pause here.

    My colleagues think we should spare you from the full horror of what's going to happen when, say, the food web in the ocean begins to collapse. They think that because they think by building bridges we can eventually bring you along, but if we paint the full picture of what the future will bring to your flesh, you'll fucking tighten up, become defensive and go full off into denialand and "stand your ground" until the bitter end.

    I have another perspective. I think by explicitly laying out for you likely or possible scenarios and what part you'll play in them your brain will start to work in favor of your own survival despite your pansified, airy-fairy post-modernist "you have your experts and I have mine, you have your reality and I have mine" bullshit you learned from cocksucking FoxNews.

    Don't think your money or guns or survivalist skills are going to count for jack fucking shit when the world's intelligence agencies collectively decide that you're a clear and present danger to humanity and bring to the party everything in their labs and the kitchen sink to make sure that your dealt with. That's how this is going to go down in the end because you know what? The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:22PM (#40706595)
    I would think geographical location during the persons upbringing would have an effect on the perception of temperature. It would also have an effect on political ideology. Correlation != causation. Perhaps temperature perception shapes political ideology.
    Condition of housing may also have an effect. Living in a cold area in an expensive warm house would not be the same as living in a cheap cold house. The difference there is the cost of the house and implies a higher family income.
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:03PM (#40706867)
    They connected the wrong dots. Different political affiliations typically means different age groups which means one has seen more decades of weather which contained other floods and droughts and heat waves so they are less inclined to think there's a change going on.
  • The abstract says *nothing* about the results, which is what I'd be interested in knowing.

                    mark

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