I’d be interested in hearing your answer to this question in the comments.

How desperate is the conservative pollster Rasmussen to glom onto the climate issue and both trivialize and confuse the debate with hyperbole, unscientific polls, and inane, vaguely worded questions? Pretty damn desperate, to judge by their headline poll last Thursday:

23% Fear Global Warming Will End World — Soon

Nearly one-out-of-four voters (23%) say it is at least somewhat likely that global warming will destroy human civilization within the next century. Five percent (5%) say it’s very likely.

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Uhh, what does this polling question mean anyway:

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How likely is it that Global Warming will destroy human civilization within the next century?

I mean, even I don’t think I’d answer that “very likely” or “somewhat likely” — and I think we face catastrophic 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path (see here). This is the territory of James Lovelock (see also here).

Destroy human civilization? I doubt you’d find two people who could even agree on how to define that. Apparently it means “the end of the world” to Rasmussen. I hope that clarifies things.

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Plus, I really, really dislike the phrase “within the next century.” The “next century” is technically the 22nd century, so “within the next century” technically means by 2200.

If they meant “this century” why didn’t they just say so? Yes, you may say that the connotation is clear to lot of people, but all I can say is that Nature created a massive amount of confusion last year when they published an article that did not clearly define for the reader and the media what the phrase “next decade” meant — see here for “Nature article on ‘cooling’ confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming.”

I would note that the NYT‘s Andy Revkin writes about Rasmussen polling:

The Times polling unit does not have confidence in the automated polling methods used by Rasmussen Reports.

The feeling is apparently mutual, Andy, since in its effort to overhype its unscientific climate poll from last week, Rasmussen ran another headline story the next day:

54% Say Media Hype Global Warming Dangers

More bad news for the media.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of U.S. voters say the news media make global warming appear worse than it really is. Only 21% say the media present an accurate picture …

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of GOP voters say the media paints a darker picture of global warming that the reality merits … Democrats, however, are much more closely divided: 27% say the media make it look worse than it is, 22% better, and 34% say they present an accurate picture.

Again, all of these numbers are meaningless — even ignoring the unscientific nature of the polling — since the topline question is ill-defined again:

Does the media make global warming appear to be worse than it really is, better than it really is or do they present an accurate picture?

Who is “the media”? And what picture are they painting? Please, somebody, tell me.

GOP voters get much of their news from the conservative media, which underplays the danger of global warming but which constantly criticizes “the media” for overhyping it.

I think the bottom line from Rasmussen’s polling is still best summed up as “Deniers are still mostly duping only GOP voters, but what do you expect from a party that wants to be more like Sarah Palin?” (see here).

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.