December 24, 2008 | Graham

Top issues November – Climate change cools

(Cross posted from What the people want)
As a recession seems more certain, climate change has dropped significantly in importance.
Financial issues dominate, although there may be a softening in their importance as well in favour of more bread and butter issues.
This may be a reflection of respondents becoming habituated to the recession and starting to concentrate on those things that they can control.
The table below compares October’s issues with November’s. This table has been compiled using Leximancer which looks for occurrences of words that represent concepts and uses 906 records randomly selected from our total responses to mirror voting intentions in the wider population.
What the table shows is that the Economy is mentioned with similar frequency in November as it was in October, and is still the top concern. Other concepts allied to it, such as Financial, Crisis, Global and World are also at similar, but slightly lower levels to October. Change, which stands for “climate change”, has dropped in importance by one-third. Words which are associated with it, like Water and Environment, are also down by large margins.
This shift in public opinion helps to explain why the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme is attracting a lot of criticism from organisations like the Greens as well as hostility from the public. The government is trying to look softer on climate change than it did last year, which enrages the Greens, while at the same time, the prospect of higher living costs upsets many average voters.
The last few years have been unique in seeing a “soft” issue like climate change ranked by the public as the most important. (And please, no correspondence for calling “climate change” a soft issue, I know that many of my respondents believe it is the most important issue. It’s a use of the word to distinguish it from “hard” issues like jobs and unemployment. I have it in inverted commas to indicate that it is a little arbitrary.)
The responses to this survey represent a return to the previous prevailing attitude that the economy is the most important issue determining votes.
There are also signs that other issues which have been side-lined, such as education and health, are coming back to public prominence with small increases in their incidence.
There has been a slight decline in the number of mentions of Jobs, but Employment appears on the list this time while it was completely absent last. With a number of firms cutting-back on workers it is likely that it will become a more important issue.
Another new issue is Spending which is most closely related to Liberal voters and a concern that the government is being unnecessarily profligate with its funds. If it is mentioned by Labor voters then this is generally favourably, but they are less likely to mention it at all.
Issues_November_Thumb.jpgThe Leximancer Map, which you can see by clicking on the thumbnail to the right, produces themes from the content. (If you don’t understand Leximancer Maps I am doing a follow-up post with some pointers over the break.) This clearly shows that the economic themes are most closely aligned with Liberal voters, while the climate change issues are associated with Labor voters. This is the first time that Warming has turned-up as a theme. Previously it has all been under the head of Change (Climate Change). It might be that people are tending to use Global Warming now in preference to Climate Change.
The theme Term is right in the centre, which illustrates the centrality of the question of what is the greatest long-term concern, versus the short-term.
People is still strongly associated with Liberal voters, but an allied theme of Personal is a little closer to Labor voters. Both of these themes are about concern for the impact that issues have on individuals. Future is pushed-off to one side, but overlaps with People.

Posted by Graham at 3:19 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. No Matter What Happens, Someone Will Blame Global Warming ?!?
    Global warming was blamed for everything from beasts gone wild to anorexic whales to the complete breakdown of human society this year — showing that no matter what it is and where it happens, scientists, explorers, politicians and those who track the Loch Ness Monster are comfortable scapegoating the weather. takes a look back at 10 things that global warming allegedly caused — or will no doubt soon be responsible for — as reported in the news around the world in 2008.
    1. Cannibalism
    In April, media mogul Ted Turner told PBS’s Charlie Rose that global warming would make the world 8 degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years. “Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state, like Somalia or Sudan, and living conditions will be intolerable,” he said.
    Turner blamed global warming on overpopulation, saying “too many people are using too much stuff.”
    Crops won’t grow and “most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals,” Turner said.
    2. The Death of the Loch Ness Monster
    In February, Scotland’s Daily Mirror reported that 85-year-old American Robert Rines would be giving up his quest for Scotland’s most famous underwater denizen.
    A World War II veteran, Rines has spent 37 years hunting for Nessie with sonar equipment. In 2008, “despite having hundreds of sonar contacts over the years, the trail has since gone cold and Rines believes that Nessie may be dead, a victim of global warming.”
    3. Beer Gets More Expensive
    In April, the Associated Press reported that global warming was going to hit beer drinkers in the wallet because the cost of barley would increase, driving up the price of a pint.
    Jim Salinger, a climate scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said Australia would be particularly hard hit as droughts caused a decline in malting barley production in parts of New Zealand and Australia. “It will mean either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up,” Salinger said at a beer brewer’s convention, the AP reported.
    4. Pythons Take Over America
    Giant Burmese pythons – big enough to eat alligators and deer in a single mouthful – will be capable of living in one-third of continental U.S. as global warming makes more of the country hospitable to the cold-blooded predators, according to an April report from
    The U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the spread of “invasive snakes,” like the pythons, brought to the U.S. as pets. The Burmese pythons’ potential American habitat would expand by 2100, according to global warming models, the paper reported.
    “We were surprised by the map. It was bigger than we thought it was going to be,” says Gordon Rodda, zoologist and lead project researcher, told “They are moving northward, there’s no question.”
    5. Kidney Stones
    A University of Texas study said global warming will cause an increase in kidney stones over the next 30 years, the Globe and Mail reported in July.
    Scientists predict that higher temperatures will lead to more dehydration and therefore to more kidney stones. “This will come and get you in your home,” said Dr. Tom Brikowski, lead researcher and an associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It will make life just uncomfortable enough that maybe people will slow down and think what they’re doing to the climate.”
    6. Skinny Whales
    Japanese scientists, who have claimed that the country’s controversial whaling program is all in the name of science, said in August that if they hadn’t been going around killing whales, they never would have discovered that the creatures were significantly skinnier than whales killed in the late 1980s, the Guardian reported in August.
    The researchers said the study was the first evidence that global warming was harming whales by restricting their food supplies. As water warmed around the Antarctic Peninsula, the krill population shrank by 80 percent as sea ice declined, eliminating much of the preferred food of the minke whale.
    The whales studied had lost the same amount of blubber as they would have by starving for 36 days, but the global warming connection couldn’t be proven because no krill measurements are taken in different regions.
    7. Shark Attacks
    A surge in fatal shark attacks was the handiwork of global warming, according to a report in the Guardian in May.
    George Burgess of Florida University, a shark expert that maintains an attack database, told the Guardian that shark attacks were caused by human activity. “As the population continues to rise, so does the number of people in the water for recreation. And as long as we have an increase in human hours in the water, we will have an increase in shark bites,” he said.
    Shark attacks could also be the result of global warming and rising sea temperatures, the Guardian said. “You’ll find that some species will begin to appear in places they didn’t in the past with some regularity,” Burgess said.
    8. Black Hawk Down
    Although it happened in 1993, the crash of a U.S. military helicopter in Mogadishu that became the film “Black Hawk Down” was blamed on global warming by a Massachusetts congressman in 2008.
    “In Somalia back in 1993, climate change, according to 11 three- and four-star generals, resulted in a drought which led to famine,” Rep. Edward Markey told a group of students who had come to the Capitol to discuss global warming, according to “That famine translated to international aid we sent in to Somalia, which then led to the U.S. having to send in forces to separate all the groups that were fighting over the aid, which led to Black Hawk Down.”
    9. Frozen Penguin Babies
    Penguin babies, whose water-repellant feathers had not grown in yet, froze to death after torrential rains, National Geographic reported in July.
    “Many, many, many of them—thousands of them—were dying,” explorer Jon Bowermaster told National Geographic. Witnessing the mass penguin death “painted a clear and grim picture” of global warming.
    “It’s not just melting ice,” Bowermaster said. “It’s actually killing these cute little birds that are so popular in the movies.”
    10. Killer Stingray Invasion
    Global warming is going to drive killer stingrays, like the one that killed Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, to the shores of Britain after a 5-foot -long marbled stingray was captured by fishermen, the Daily Mail reported in June.
    A single touch can zap a man with enough electricity to kill, the Mail said, and global warming is bringing the Mediterranean killers north.
    “Rising sea temperatures may well have brought an influx of warm water visitors,” sea life curator Alex Gerrard told the Mail. “Where there’s one electric ray, it’s quite likely that there are more.”

    Comment by hernadi-key — December 25, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

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