Fox News fiddles with climate change polling

Do you want to know how serious the “Climategate” hacked e-mail scandal is? It's so serious that, according to Rasmussen, 120 percent of Americans have an opinion on it. At least, that's what I learned from watching the December 4 edition of Fox & Friends, which featured this graphic:

What happened? Well, here's the Rasmussen poll Fox & Friends cited. They asked respondents: “In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?” According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren't sure).

Fox News' graphics department added together the “very likely” and “somewhat likely” numbers to reach 59 percent, and called that new group “somewhat likely.” Then, for some reason, they threw in the 35 percent “very likely” as their own group, even though they already added that number to the “somewhat likely” percentage. Then they mashed together the “not very likely” and “not likely at all” groups, and threw the 15 percent who were unsure into the waste bin. Voila -- 120 percent.

As such, Fox News' presentation of the data made it seem as though 94 percent of Americans think it's at least “somewhat likely” that climate scientists falsify their research data.

As for the data itself, based on the phrasing of Rasmussen's question there's no way to know who the respondents were thinking of when they answered. It's possible that they could have been thinking of the climate scientists who compile the IPCC reports, it's also possible that they could have been thinking of the scientists on Exxon Mobil's payroll.

It's impossible to tell what motivated Fox to distort Rasmussen's data this way. The network as a whole has quite obviously sided with the “skeptics” and regularly plays host to a whole roster of petroleum industry-funded climate change deniers. Then again, it very well may be that the graphics department simply got confused once they started adding percentages together and didn't catch the mistake before it went on the air. Either way, it would appear that Fox News' new "zero tolerance" policy regarding mistakes isn't having its desired effect.

UPDATE: Here's a video of the Fox & Friends crew amplifiying their absurdly false graphic: