Loose Ends (127)

Headline:

Biden to Meet With Union Leaders to Discuss Infrastructure Spending

What an accurate headline would say:

Biden to Meet With Union Leaders to Buy Them Off for Killing Their Members’ Jobs

I have a theory about why Mitch McConnell decided to go off on Trump as he did after the impeachment vote. My suspicion is that a quite a lot of Republican Senators (maybe a majority) are fed up with Trump and hope he doesn’t even think about running again in 2024, but saying so publicly will hurt them with Trump’s enthusiastic base.

McConnell is surely in his last term in the Senate; he turns 79 on Saturday. (Wonder if he will get a Happy Birthday card postmarked “Mar a Lago”?) Given his unpopularity with much of the GOP base—unfair I think; he’s been the most skillful Senate leader since Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s, with much less room to maneuver than LBJ had back then—I think McConnell deliberately decided to make himself the lightning rod (or an air raid shelter), attracting Trump’s fire rather than having it diffused to other Republican Senators.

Perhaps you’re heard the result of a new UN global opinion survey of more than 1 million people whose headline result is that “64 percent of respondents answered yes to the question, ‘Do you think climate change is a global emergency?'”

Whoa! Sixty-four percent! That settles it, then. Emergency measures it is.

Kudos to Kenton de Kirby of the Breakthrough Institute, which leans slightly left and green on the whole, for pointing out what a crap poll this is:

Sixty-four percent of respondents answered yes to the question, “Do you think climate change is a global emergency?”

But what does this mean?

Respondents can’t answer that yes, climate change is happening, but no, it’s not an emergency. Nor can they answer “don’t know,” or “unsure,” which, based on decades of survey research, many respondents surely would.

The following item suggests that the headline finding is indeed highly misleading. Asked “what should the world do about it,” over 40% of respondents who answered “Yes” to the climate emergency question said that they thought the world should “act slowly while we learn more about what to do,” that “the world is already doing enough,” or should “do nothing.”

If the results are taken at face value, the belief that climate change is an emergency does not well predict support for acting accordingly. Faced with this counterintuitive finding, Flynn and Yamasumi speculate that more education, “even for those who already think climate change is a global emergency.” But the more likely explanation is that this surprising finding is simply a residue of, generously, a poorly designed survey or, less generously, an intentional strategy to inflate the appearance of public concern about climate change.

Bonus item: I appeared on someone else’s podcast this week, “The New Thinkery,” talking about executive power. Give a listen and subscribe—the young guys behind this show have a neat schtick going.

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