Question wording: Scientists’ beliefs

Graph: Percent of Climate Scientists Who Believe Global Warming Has Been Happening
Question wording: (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018):  “If you were to guess, about what percent of the scientists who study the world’s climate believe that the world’s temperature has been going up over the last 100 years? You can answer with any number between zero percent and one hundred percent.”; [if respondents say 50%, then]: ” Did you say 50 percent because you think about half of those scientists believe that, or did you say 50 percent because you’re not sure how many scientists believe that?”

Graph: Of the Scientists Who Study the Climate That Think There Has Been Global Warming, What Percentage Think That It Has Been Caused By Things People Do?
Question wording: (November 2010, June 2012) “Think of the scientists who study the world’s climate and who believe that the world’s temperature has been going up [random half include ‘slowly’] over the last 100 years. If you were to guess, about what percent of these scientists believe that this [slow] warming has been caused mostly by things people do?”

Perceived agreement among scientists: Results prior to 2010
This section referred to the question seeking to measure the public’s perception of agreement among scientists regarding the existence of global warming and its cause. Our original question asked in 1997, 1998 2006-2009 was:

“Do you think most scientists agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening, or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists on this issue?”; [if respondents said there is a lot of agreement, then] “Do you think most scientists believe that global warming is happening or is not happening?”

In 2010 we tested several versions of this question test. We tested to see if referring to scientists as ‘scientists’ or ‘scientists who study the world’s climate’ made a difference. We tested to see if we should refer to global warming as ‘global warming’ or as ‘the world’s temperature has been going up slowly over the last 100 years’. We found that there was no significant difference in the results from the various question wordings. The question wordings are below:

Question wording: June 2010 [random half of the respondents] Do you think most scientists agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening, or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists on this issue?’; [if respondents think most scientists agree]“Do you think most scientists believe that global warming is happening or is not happening?”; [other half of respondents] “Do you think most scientists who study the world’s climate agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening, or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among these scientists on this issue?”; [if respondents think most scientists agree] “Do you think most scientists who study the world’s climate believe that global warming is happening or is not happening?”

Question wording: November 2010: [random half of the respondents] “Do you think most scientists who study the world’s climate agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening, or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among these scientists on this issue?” [if respondents think most scientists agree]“Do you think most scientists who study the world’s climate believe that global warming is happening or is not happening?” ; [other half of respondents] “Do you think most scientists who study the world’s climate agree with one another about whether or not the world’s temperature has been going up slowly over the last 100 years, or do you think there is a lot of disagreement among these scientists on this issue?”; [if respondents think most scientists agree] “Do you think most scientists who study the world’s climate believe that the world’s temperature has been going up slowly over the last 100 years, or do you think that most scientists who study the world’s climate believe that the world’s temperature has NOT been going up slowly over the last 100 years?”

We then looked to see how respondents answered a question asking them to guess what percentage of scientists think global warming is occurring. With the following question, we saw that respondents interpret ‘most’ differently than ‘more than 50%’. We concluded that the question below provides a more accurate measurement of American’s perceived agreement among scientists. The question wording is:

Question wording: (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015): [random half of the respondents] “If you were to guess, about what percent of the scientists who study the world’s climate think global warming is happening? You can answer with any number between zero percent and one hundred percent.”; .” [If the respondent said 50%, then we asked:] “Did you say 50 percent because you think about half of those scientists believe that, or did you say 50 percent because you’re not sure how many scientists believe that?”

[other half] “If you were to guess, about what percent of the scientists who study the world’s climate believe that the world’s temperature has been going up slowly over the last 100 years? You can answer with any number between zero percent and one hundred percent.” [If the respondent said 50%, then we asked:] “Did you say 50 percent because you think about half of those scientists believe that, or did you say 50 percent because you’re not sure how many scientists believe that?”

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