Apparently, Matt Nisbet didn't think that one poorly-reasoned critique of Gore's ability to communicate science was enough for the weekend, because he tossed out another a day later. You might recall that in his first critique, Nisbet claimed that Gore contributes to the partisan divide over climate change. His presentation of the issue is too alarmist, Matt claimed, which makes it easy for Republicans to dismiss the entire message. In this latest post, he claims that Gore has had "limited success" in getting the American public to be more aware of the problem because a lot of people have an unfavorable impression of Gore. Gore's low approval rating, Nisbet claims, means that there are a lot of people who aren't inclined to listen to anything Gore has to say on the topic.
Come on, Matt, which is it? Does Gore have "little success" convincing Republicans because his message uses the dreaded "Pandora's Box Frame" and can be dismissed as too alarmist, or does Gore have "limited success" convincing Republicans because they're not inclined to favorably listen to anything he has to say, regardless of how it's framed? Inquiring minds want to know.
And here I'd thought that Gore would be an excellent example of successful "framing". He built a powerful case that global warming is real and we have to do something about it, avoided drowning the viewer in "data dumps" and made his entire message emotionally resonant. I figured he should be lauded and emulated as a successful communicator. I mean, did I just hallucinate that Nisbet and Mooney said in their WaPo editorial,
Especially on divisive issues, scientists should package their research to resonate with specific segments of the public. Data dumping -- about, say, the technical details of embryology -- is dull and off-putting to most people.
Shows how little I know!
Is it just me, or does it appear that the condensed version of Nisbet is "I don't do what scientists do, therefore they should be criticized until they do what I do"?
And here I'd thought that Gore would be an excellent example of successful "framing".
No no no! What Nisbet does is "framing." What other people do is "spinning."
You know, I think we really need to buy Nisbett an Atlas. Yet again he seems to have confused the US with the entire world. it is like he does not realise there is a world beyond the borders of the US.
"Come on, Matt, which is it? Does Gore have "little success" convincing Republicans because his message uses the dreaded "Pandora's Box Frame" and can be dismissed as too alarmist, or does Gore have "limited success" convincing Republicans because they're not inclined to favorably listen to anything he has to say, regardless of how it's framed? Inquiring minds want to know."
Why must it be either/or?
Gore can be framed as too alarmist and can be framed as not worth listening to because he's a Democrat. So he can't convince everyone that global warming is a problem requiring action.
Obviously, as I've explained since the spring at Science, the WPost, my blog, in speeches, in media interviews, and elsewhere, the answer is both, see A and B below.
My observations are not meant as a personal critique of Gore. I have in fact publicly supported his candidacy for president since last year.
In making these observations, as a social scientist I am bringing theory and empirical data to bear on understanding his public impact. The Nobel peace prize is a great honor but it doesn't tell me anything about what Gore's influence has been on public opinion in the United States leading up to his award.
a) For example, as I point out at NPR's On the Media, Gore's lead frame of catastrophe opens the door to conservative opinion leaders to claim he is engaging in alarmism, sending the debate back to a discussion over the certainty/uncertainty of the science. Andrew Revkin captures this when he writes at the NY Times on Saturday:
The other winner, former Vice President Al Gore, delivers brimstone-laden warnings of an unfolding planetary emergency. Mr. Gore has not shied from emphasizing the most emotionally potent though less certain consequences of warming like its link to hurricane intensity and rising sea levels.
Like many of the panel members interviewed, Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan and a lead author of some of the climate panels chapters in 2001 and this year, said he was thrilled that the prize elevated the issue. But Mr. Yohe said the focus on Mr. Gore as a personality and politician might distract from researchers strong consensus on the risks posed by unfettered emissions of heat-trapping gases. If the spectacular nature of his presentations and the personalities involved become the story instead of the science, Mr. Yohe said, then it becomes counterproductive. He and other panel members were queasy about some of Mr. Gores points that exceeded the panels assessments. In An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on Mr. Gores climate work, a fast-motion flood spills into ground zero, implying seas could rise many feet in the near term from melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. In the panels latest study, losing the Greenland sheet was projected to take 1,000 years or more.
b) With a different set of opinion leaders offering up a different set of frames, Republican-leading members of the public continue to discount the urgency of climate change.
Gore has been very good at convincing people who have a favorable view of him and who already think global warming is a problem to become even more concerned about it. Yet If the goal is to engage the entire American public, including Republicans, then other messages and messengers are needed.
We talk about this extensively in our Speaking Science 2.0 presentations which are available online, offering up several suggestions for engaging the Republican base. I also document the opinion polling on climate change extensively at my blog and in the new peer-reviewed study I have out in Public Opinion Quarterly.
Above, republican-leading should be "leaning."
My focus is on Gore's impact in the US, hence my focus on US public opinion data. His differential impact across other countries and political systems is an interesting question but not something I am studying right now. I invite you or others to analyze polling and media data in other countries as a comparison point to my analysis of the US context. I also invite others to similarly examine data from the US as a comparison point to my own work.
So what do you have against people not Americans ? I get the distinct impression from what you said above, and have said elsewhere that they simply do count as far as you are concerned. This view even seems to extend to criticising a non-American for his views on religion (Richard Dawkins in case you did not get it.
"In making these observations, as a social scientist "
That leads me to wonder if the current generation of social scientists are making any worthwhile contributions to anything. Are they all products of the postmodernist virus?