Australian teens not so NIMBY as The Age suggests

Australian environmental polling consistently finds young people to be greener than old people, but according to an article in Monday’s Education Age Australian 15 year olds deserve a place on the NIMBY list.

Drawing on results from the 2006 OECD PISA survey, the article says that

only one in 10 Australian teens strongly support the regulation of factory emissions that could lead to product price rises, less than a quarter strongly supported emission checks on vehicles as a condition of use and one in seven strongly supported cutting back on unnecessary use of electrical appliances.

But on looking at the OECD report, the key word in that paragraph is ‘strongly’. It lists agree or strongly agree in a single figure, and on that Australian 15 year olds start to look less NIMBYish. The one in ten wanting regulation of factory emissions increases to five in 10 when those who just agree, rather than strongly agree, are included (this is less than the 69% OECD average, but the question wording is vague in not specifying what the emissions are). Nine in ten want emissions checks on vehicles, and six in 10 claim to be disturbed by the waste of electricity in applicances.

Eight in 10 favour electricity being being produced from renewable sources, even if this increases the price.
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Do voters want an ETS sooner or later?

The polls on whether the financial crisis means that the ETS should be delayed constistently find a significant minority in favour. Two polls last month came up with 22% and 30% in favour of a delay. A Galaxy poll in today’s News Ltd tabloids puts the constituency for postponing at 25%.

However, the polls are contradicting each other on what the rest of the voters want. The first of the polls, from the Climate Institute, was too poorly presented to know what people thought. The Newspoll found 30% for a delay and 21% against an ETS at all, creating a slim majority of 51% opposed to a 2010 start date. But in the Galaxy poll there was no option given for rejecting an ETS, and instead 21% went for ‘introduce sooner’, which when combined with the 41% preferring the orignal timetable creates 62% support for 2010 or earlier implementation.

These results appear highly sensitive to the options being offered, so it’s not clear what the voters really want. Given their confessed ignorance on this issue, that’s perhaps not surprising.

Australia’s surprisingly secure workers, part 6

The most recent Roy Morgan employment perceptions survey provides interesting insight into how people are thinking about the widely expected economic downturn.

On the one hand, 70% of respondents believe that unemployment will increase over the next 12 months, the highest figure since the last recession, and the 3rd highest number recorded since Roy Morgan started asking this question back in 1975.

But this is what is going to happen to other people. The proportion of respondents who think that their own job is safe is 80%, the same as twelve months ago.

The proportion who think that they could find another job quickly is down, from 72% to 63%, but last year’s figure was exceptionally high. 63% is a normal number for this decade.

These figures suggests that very few people yet think that they are personally threatened by the downturn, and most of the worry is the seemingly normal concern people have when their employer isn’t doing so well or they feel that their employer might not want them.

I call all these posts “Australia’s surprisingly secure workers”, but that’s a reference to the exaggerated claims of job insecurity frequently made in the media (and indeed in books by people who should know better). These Roy Morgan figures actually surprise me.

Denialist watch

Harry Clarke thinks that it is silly to keep track of the number of climate change alarmist stories. Except that he seems to believe that, reading between the lines, I am being a climate change denialist, or giving comfort to the denialists, I can’t see why it is silly. I study public opinion as a hobby, but those who do it professionally and have research assistants and money to spend keep track of media reports as part of their work. I’m doing this on the cheap. But the basic idea is the same.

But to give balance, I will also do a denialist watch. My impression is that the denialists get little mainstream media coverage apart from Andrew Bolt and the The Australian‘s opinion page, so this will test that impression.

And in an attempt to track where I think are the real politics here, ie actually doing anything about climate change despite professed public belief in it, I will also run NIMBY watch – people complaining not about the science, but about climate change policy.

The list:
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Apocalypse watch

Just how often are we told that disaster awaits us unless we do something about global warming? Like many people, I suspect, there have been so many predictions of doom that I no longer absorb any of the detail. Is the future apocalypse announced on tonight’s news the same one as on the morning news, or is it a new one? They all the seem the same unless you pay close attention.

For the next month, I plan to keep track of global warming disaster stories in the Australian media. I am not going to count every report (that would take too long), but I want to link to as many of the separate stories as I can. I think this might be interesting as part of my series of posts on the politics of global warming. My hunch is that scaring people into action is no longer an effective strategy; it has people convinced that things need to change, but not that they personally should do much about it.

The list:
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Driving policy in the wrong direction

Yesterday’s announcement of massive subsidies for the car industry is a big victory for industry minister Kim Il-Carr and the auto lobby. But it is a big defeat for consumers, taxpayers, and alternative beneficiaries of government largesse. On my rough calculation, every taxpayer will contribute the best part of $700 to this plan (where is suspicion of foreign multinationals when you need it?).

My CIS colleague Stephen Kirchner points out the additional hidden costs in diverting resources away from more productive uses.

And in the latest issue of Policy, Malcolm Roberts gives the sorry history of car industry protection.

We can be sure that this latest scheme, like all those before it, will fail to make the car industry viable, and this will not be the last of the corporate welfare bail-out packages.

Update 12/11: Shaun Carney’s argument for the subsidy. Summary: Other industries, and other countries, have stupid policies, and therefore the car industry deserves a stupid policy as well.

The Liberals and the issue cycle

The controversy-ridden book on the future of the Liberals, Liberals and Power, was launched on Friday by Alan Jones, who as the Australian‘s report of the launch noted, knows a thing or two about plagiarism himself.

My (unplagiarised, unghost-written) chapter was on the Liberals and the issue cycle. The basic theory is that the major parties each “own” issues, in that there is systematic pattern over time of poll respondents saying that they prefer one party over the other for that issue. These perceptions are only loosely related to actual policies and performance; they are stereotyped impressions of the parties that are substitutes for actual information.

The Liberals own taxation, national security, defence, migration and tend to do well on the economy (though this one is more performance dependent); Labor owns welfare, education, health, industrial relations and beats the Liberals on the environment (the Greens are a complicating factor for this issue).

Because issue ownership tends to be fairly stable over time (though the margins by which parties lead on their own issues fluctuates), issue cycle theory suggests that it is the relative importance of issues, more than the party’s performance as such on the issues, that determines which party has an issue advantage.
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Could political expenditure disclosure laws be unconstitutional?

I am pleased that the NSW government has dumped its absurd and anti-democratic plan to ban political donations.

The apparent cause, however, was not a realisation that the original proposal was a bad idea. It was this advice on its constitutional and practical difficulties by the consistently impressive Anne Twomey.

Twomey’s report does not discuss the law in which I have the greatest personal interest, the federal laws on political expenditure disclosure. Under the current law, persons or organisations spending more than $10,300 on an election issue have to disclose both how they spent the money and, if it was based on donations of that amount or more, who the donors were.

The current federal government plans to reduce that threshold to $1,000, meaning that thousands of people and groups that may comment only incidentally on election issues will be caught up in tougher disclosure requirements than political parties (which have to disclose donations, but don’t have to itemise expenditure). Those individuals, or the office-holders of the groups, face a conviction and possible jail sentence for failure to comply.
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