Preliminary results of the “Tol Poll’

Dr. Richard Tol writes at his blog:

The Tol Poll is a direct result of the series of op-eds in the Guardian on the relationship between the environmental movement and environmental science organized by Alice Bell, and particularly Tamsin Edwards’ call for experts to talk about their area of expertise only. In the ensuing discussion, many noted just how nasty the climate debate has become, and Chairman Al, the Climate Chimp, suggested a poll on nastiness.

So I did, as a joke. Putting together an internet poll is trivial. (Designing a good poll is a lot of work.)

The poll itself is simple. Rate 12 people who are prominent in the British climate debate online, on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 stands for “very nasty” and 5 stands for “very friendly”. There is a bonus question that places the respondent in the political spectrum, rating themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 stands for “very worried about the impacts of climate policy” and 5 for “very worried about the impacts of climate change”. (Some people argued these are different things, which of course they are, but I was not after identifying the agony aunts who worry about everything.)

The expected result: Some people are either loved or loathed, depending on the (in)congruence of their political position and that of the respondent, whereas other people are accepted by both sides of the debate.

The best I hoped for were some giggles, and perhaps a data set that could be used for a class in forensic statistics (as the framing of the poll invites dishonest answers).

I had not counted on Anthony Watts pushing the poll. I had not counted on someone writing a bot to flood the poll with fake results pushing a particular position, and someone else writing a bot to support the opposite position. Or maybe it was the same bot, as its author realized people saw through the ruse. The software I used, Google Docs, is not really suited for handling this amount of data.

As a courtesy to all those who took the time to fill out the poll and who discussed it (in grave, jocular or puzzled tones), here are some of the results. As Google Docs continues to be uncooperative, these are the results for the first 1288 valid replies; there are 11701 invalid replies by the bot(s).

Figure 1 shows that some people are better loved than others. As expected, the host of Watts Up With That tops the bill.

Read the rest here (lots of graphs): http://richardtol.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-tol-poll.html

Note: No Mad Haxor Skillz were used in the publication of this poll. 

- Anthony

UPDATE: Richard Tol has a final result now, and it is here:

http://richardtol.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/tol-poll-ctd.html

47 thoughts on “Preliminary results of the “Tol Poll’

  1. Tamsin Edwards standing out as the most neutral


    That is probably because she is the most neutral.

    The poll was pushed on this website so a lot of sceptics were going to vote; more than those who are alarmed.
    Dr Edwards is in the alarmist camp but also in the pro-science/anti-politicising-science camp.

    That is 50% disagreed with by most WUWT readers and 50% endorsed.

    apologies if “alarm” or “alarmist” are considered pejorative

  2. So naughty Mr Watts spoilt the fun by advertising the poll, then caused a bot to be created to put himself to the top and then, fearing he had gone OTT, rejigged the bot to vote the other way? But as this is now the science of consensus, we have to conclude that he is a nice man. Sounds good to me.

    REPLY: I suggest you provide some proof of your assertion of creating/applying bots or kindly STHU. I did no such thing. Other than publish about it just as Lucia did, and two hours later I might add, that’s it. – Anthony

  3. Congratulations, Anthony! What a hoot.

    (I do think Steve McIntyre is sweeter, more humble, than you….)

    Now, back to science, eh? ….Lady in Red

  4. Robin Hewitt, our host doesn’t need a bot.

    He is the host of by far the most people who are interested in climate science and by far the most common link between people who took the poll.

    You don’t need a machine to build a castle when you have an army.

  5. @Robin
    Actually, the bot started with 2100 “very nice” votes for Dana, Joe and Gavin and “very nasty” votes for Andrew, Anthony, James and Marc, before flipping and voting the opposite 9600 times.

  6. Robin Hewitt,

    Unfortunately for you the initial bot was created to push a climate alarmist into top place not the host of this site. Perhaps before rushing to spout incorrect claims you might first wish to check the chronology.

  7. I didn’t think I was spouting “false claims” so much as repeating what I had just read. Fortunately I’m not a Warmista so I don’t have to care what people think of me..

  8. “many noted just how nasty the climate debate has become, and Chairman Al, the Climate Chimp, suggested a poll on nastiness”
    LOL – you couldn’t make this sort of stuff up Well -someone obviously has!

  9. Robin Hewitt says: August 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm
    “Fortunately I’m not a Warmista so I don’t have to care what people think of me..”

    Then you won’t be worried that I think you’re an impulsive person who jumps to unsubstantiated*, and possibly libelous (or is it “slanderous” for Internet comments on a post?), conclusions: “naughty”,/i>< “caused a bot to be created to put himself to the top”, “rejigged the bot to vote the other way”.

    Fortunately for you, Mr. Watts appears to be a very nice person, tolerant of statements that might have some people calling their attorneys to discuss possible legal action. Why, he didn’t even delete your unpleasant post. Go figure.

    But you probably think emote I’m a bot programmed to say nice things about WUWT.

    If you are merely “repeating what [you] had just read”, you should have stated as much… and posted a reference to the source. Instead, you post the accusation as your own thought emotion.


    (* “Unsubstantiated” is being generous, since Mr. Tol clearly states that the graph depicts the positive view of Mr. Watts based on votes before the bots struck.)

  10. Hi Carl Bussjaeger, you can think what you want about me, far be it from me to tell you what to think. I don’t want to be all controversial but you seem to have missed that my original post started with the word, “So”. A small word I will grant you, but it does suggest that the post should be read in the context of that which came before.

  11. Its sad that someone “for a joke” put together a poll that actually means nothing would result in someone creating a bot that spoils the fun. WUWT is a website that provides a scientific look at Climate Science that other warmist sites do not. Their constant use of the “d” word and lack of actual science speaks volumes. Every so often I DO visit one of those sites to see if they actually offer any science to their claims or to refute the skeptic views on CAGW or climate change or climate disruption only to close the site very quickly. I also ask warmists for their science. Always disappointed. Thanks Anthony for all the work here and I repeat your words “provide some proof of your assertion of creating/applying bots or kindly STFU.”

  12. @Robin Hewitt: What “came before” was a single comment by “M Courtney” to the effect that 1) Edwards was rated as neutral because she is neutral, 2) the poll was linked from a “sceptic” site so sceptic votes should be expected.

    There was nothing in that comment regarding Mr. Watts being “naughty” nor responsible for the bots. You provided that allegation all by yourself. If you had some other “context” in which your accusation should have been read, it was incumbent upon you to provide it (something I note you still haven’t done).

    This would be a really good time for you to accept that you went too far (slinging insults and unfounded accusations), and apologizing to Mr. Watts.

  13. REPLY: I suggest you provide some proof of your assertion

    Sorry Anthony, what I was trying to say was that although the poll results were probably rigged, when judged by the new science of consensus, rather than experiment, it accidentally proved that you are nice. I obviously didn’t do it very well. I never meant to cause any offense, if I did I apologise. I never thought you were anything but nice.

    REPLY: Thanks for the clarification. I don’t care much about the results, but I do care about being painted in such a way that suggests I’d do something illegal/unethical to make it appear that I do. – Anthony

  14. Robin Hewitt … you’re digging yourself into a hole, mate. Far simpler to apologise and explain that you did not intend to slander our host.

    REPLY: This comment appeared after hers above, no need for it then – Anthony

  15. Robin Hewitt says at August 8, 2013…
    Actually, that would have been a very good point and well worth repeating now.

    If 97% meant anything then the “evil D*ni*r” who topped the poll is really nice. Good for the sceptics!.

    And well done in having the balls to clarify instead of slinking away. Most manly (or most gracious if Robin is a feminine name).

  16. OK, I’m finding this an interesting logic challenge. Why would someone design a “bot” to tilt one way, and then have it FLIP and go the other way. Or were there TWO BOTS? But why does it seem as though one “ran it’s course” and faded, and then the other one appeared, conviniently, a short time later to tilt the other way? Sign me: PERPLEXED

  17. Max Hugoson says at August 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm…
    My guess, it was simple sabotage.

    Robin Hewitt was perceptive.
    If the majority rules then this survey field.

    By definition, he is the friendliest person in the climate debate.
    Even I gave him a “4” while he was formally in feud with my house.

    If the 97% means anything then this poll would be problematical; it had to be destroyed.

    • Regarding the PC correctness debate of Willis’ article.

      Some people saw nothing wrong with it, and some people are doing voluminous hand wringing over the PC correctness aspect of it. Point is, there are people who agree with/disagree with every single opinion piece ever written here. If Willis wants to change it/clarify it, he’s certainly welcome to. I would have worded it differently and probably would have suggested some edits had I seen it before publication. That said, I think the hand-wringing about it is excessive. It was written in the language of his age and experience. Some people might not like it, but he was being honest with his praise as well as his scorn. Many people younger than Willis most certainly have a different view.

      I’ve let him know of the concerns, and I’ll leave it to him to respond.

      Making mistakes and making a fool of yourself is all part of learning. I’ve done both, as have some of our guest authors. I’m happy to concede there was a mistake in the wording of Willis essay, because I think he didn’t correctly predict how it might be interpreted or misinterpreted, or maybe he was counting on it. I simply don’t know.

      Regarding how it has been viewed in the context of John Cook’s “creepy” Tweet about it, the difference between SkS and WUWT is that we at WUWT allow the criticism and considers it, where SkS just disappears things like entire folders and then goes silent about it.

  18. I for one think the poll is quite entertaining and hope Dr Tol and his classes have a lot of fun dissecting it. But then I have “How to Lie with Statistics” sitting in the book case next to me.

  19. Max Hugoson says:
    August 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm
    “OK, I’m finding this an interesting logic challenge. Why would someone design a “bot” to tilt one way, and then have it FLIP and go the other way. Or were there TWO BOTS? But why does it seem as though one “ran it’s course” and faded, and then the other one appeared, conviniently, a short time later to tilt the other way? Sign me: PERPLEXED”

    There’s not much design to this “bot”; it’s probably just repeatedly accessing the same URL with the same parameters indicating what it wants to vote for; with a time delay in between that is necessary to keep it from getting banned. It’s a PollDaddy poll, right? Looks like they use a 5 second timeout during which a repeat request from the same IP leads to a ban. So you just wait 6 seconds between two votes.

  20. I want to apologize to Dr. Tol. I wrote the second bot to ‘beat’ the first bot. (Actually it was just a recorded macro that took about 15 seconds to create.) When I saw the poll I thought it was just a joke, the way it was worded. And then when I saw it got hijacked, I didn’t won’t to let ‘them’ win. I know it caused you to waste your time undoing what I did, and I am sincerely sorry. I’m glad you could get the fake votes removed and get your data.

  21. Max Hugoson says:
    August 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm
    “OK, I’m finding this an interesting logic challenge. Why would someone design a “bot” to tilt one way, and then have it FLIP and go the other way. Or were there TWO BOTS? But why does it seem as though one “ran it’s course” and faded, and then the other one appeared, conviniently, a short time later to tilt the other way? Sign me: PERPLEXED”

    Mixing wrong info with correct info in the right proportion will give the “results” the appearance of being legit. Now if I were to do this (I do not have the skills so am truly innocent), I would do exactly what they did. Boost the opposite point of view so it looks like they are winning, then when they accept that as good data slam them with what you really want the data to show, too late for them to call it fake.

  22. Relax guys, looks like Robin Hewitt was joking to me, a small case of two countries divided by a common language.

  23. M Courtney says:

    Tamsin Edwards standing out as the most neutral

    That is probably because she is the most neutral.

    Nah. It is probably because she is the least well known. When I voted, I gave anyone whose work I didn’t know well enough to have formed an opinion about the middle score. I suspect most others did the same.

  24. The 2nd Bot Creator says:
    August 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm
    ——————————————-

    Kudos for “owning up” and apologizing!

    If it came down to “battling ‘bots”, I suspect the skeptics might win. I think we’ve got better “mad haxor skills”. Dr. Jones, besides not knowing how to get a trend line out of Excel, apparently thinks clicking “delete” does something useful. Meaningless, in any case!

    Dr. Tol points out that designing a poll to “show” something is easy. Designing a poll to “find out” something is much harder! I think a poll to find out “what skeptics think” might be interesting. Some skeptics post stuff that other skeptics call “voodoo physics”. Clearly, we don’t have a “consensus”! Fortunately, we don’t need one…

    Do you think the planet has warmed since 1850 (or so)? How much? How much effect do human activities have? None? Less than half? More than half? All of it? Is this warming (if any) good for us? Bad for us? Do you think we can “stop climate change” by “governance”? Do you think we should, if we could?

    Stuff like that…

  25. @JJ
    Yes, I agree with you. I also gave Tamsin Edwards a “3” because I had never heard of her before. So I figured I should give her a neutral score. I’m sure that others did the same and that is probably the main reason she appears to be the most neutral in the survey.

  26. Frank – a good set of questions:

    Do you think the planet has warmed since 1850 or so?

    If yes, how much?

    How much effect do human activities have on warming? None? Less than half? More than half? All of it?

    Is this warming (if any) good for us? Bad for us?

    Do you think we can “stop climate change” by “governance”?

    Do you think we should, if we could?

    Do you think this questionnaire can be truthfully answered?

    Do you think that a questionnaire can be written in such as way as to prevent anyone fiddling with it – perhaps by the normal method of banning second and later attempts from the same email address?

    Would you like to see this questionnaire set by someone competent to do so in a manner that the results cannot be faked?

  27. Anthony
    Your acceptence of Robins appology at 1:42pm speaks volumes. A scientist with any sense of ethics cares more about integrity than the results of any poll or even any experiment. The data from any experiment done correctly is not wrong it simply leads you to create the next experiment to explain the results you already have. The data leads the experimenter the experimenter should not lead the data. As skeptics we should guard our integrity passionately.
    If accused of wrongdoing respond quickly and calmly. Set it straight or else it will be used against you later. The popularity of this site is all about integrity and it starts at the top.

  28. Richard Tol:
    As what you termed an agony aunt, I would be interested in how those who carefully read the last question and chose the middle ground rated the individuals. My suspicion is that they used more intermediate points on the scale.

  29. Dudley Horscroft says:
    August 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Frank – a good set of questions:
    ————————————————

    Thank you, Dudley! Merely a “first attempt” – infuenced by the Doran and Zimmerman questions. Might need a “How sure are you?” addendum to each. Might want a “political philosophy” question (I’m an old hippie – a “tree-hugger who knows what trees eat.” Few people would consider me “right wing”, although I agree with some “right wing” viewpoints.)

    —————————————
    Do you think the planet has warmed since 1850 or so?
    ————————————–

    Probably. If I had to go with “yes or no”, I’d go with “yes”.

    ————————————
    If yes, how much?
    —————————-

    Rounded to whole degrees, about 1.

    ————————————-
    How much effect do human activities have on warming? None? Less than half? More than half? All of it?
    ———————————

    I’d go with less than half – probably much less. Like “The shoes and the handbag come to two hundred bucks. How much for the shoes?” There isn’t enough information to answer the question. We are essentially conducting an experiment to determine “How much for two pairs of shoes and the handbag?” At that point, we might be able to answer the question. If the warmists are right, this is a very dangerous experiment! I’m not concerned much.

    ——————————–
    Is this warming (if any) good for us? Bad for us?
    —————————————

    Mostly good. Depends upon “How much warming?”, of course. At some point, the detrimental effects would overwhelm the beneficial effects. Several degrees of warming would be a lot easier to adapt to than several degrees of cooling, IMO. Actual observed warming, so far, has been almost entirely beneficial, IMO.

    ——————————
    Do you think we can “stop climate change” by “governance”?
    ————————–

    No. I think an attempt would be more likely to result in the overthrow of the government (by some means or another) than to have any effect on climate.

    ——————————
    Do you think we should, if we could?
    ———————————-

    No. Proposed policies that I’m aware of would do more harm than good. If some “good” policy were proposed, I might change my opinion.

    ———————————————
    Do you think this questionnaire can be truthfully answered?
    ———————————

    Well, I’ve tried….

    ———————————-
    Do you think that a questionnaire can be written in such as way as to prevent anyone fiddling with it – perhaps by the normal method of banning second and later attempts from the same email address?
    ————————————–

    “Completely unbreakable” is probably not possible. Some attempt to avoid “gaming” might be nice.

    —————————————
    Would you like to see this questionnaire set by someone competent to do so in a manner that the results cannot be faked?
    —————————————

    Sure! I’m not competent to do so. I think the results would be “interesting”, but might not “mean” much. Asking skeptics what they think would be more interesting than asking warmists what they think skeptics think (Dr. Lewandowski, I’m lookin’ at you!). Thanks for the response!

  30. @Richard Tol – as sport it was entertaining; as a joke it was a laugh; as a good survey it wasn’t one . . . as you have kindly now told us.

    Thanks

    John

  31. Google graced me with more computing power. All data have been retrieved. Updated results and new ones on priming are at the link in Anthony’s original post. There is also a link to the data to analyze to your heart’s content.

  32. Richard, you should have put pictures next to the names on the polling questions. Then Tamsin would have scored much higher than Anthony or Steve ;)

  33. Richard S.J. Tol says:
    August 9, 2013 at 4:27 am

    > Updated results and new ones on priming are at the link in Anthony’s original post.

    Now if you can come up with some graphs where the text is readable, I’d take a closer look!

  34. @ Richard Tol

    I think the last question was a stroke of genius and would like to see the results. There are so many different camps in the climate argument from hyper alarmists (the world is going to end) all the way to actual deniers (the world not warming, GHE doesn’t exist) but as far as whether one will support the various climate change action schemes depends really on the one question: Are you more worried about the effects of climate change policy or climate change?

  35. OOPS!

    Change “world not warming” to “no 20th century warming”. Man, if I could only edit. Obviously, the case can be made that the world is not warming based on the global average temperature metric for the last decade and a half without being a “denier” of the world having experienced some recent (century scale) warming.

  36. { I had not counted on someone writing a bot to flood the poll with fake results pushing a particular position, and someone else writing a bot to support the opposite position. }

    I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that this guy named BRANDON SCHOLLENBERGER is an out of control,-running amok-barking at the the chickens troublemaker. He hacks SKS, then Dr Richard’s poll, finishing up with a post under a fake alias, i.e. The 2nd Bot Creator.

    /sarc

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