GfK stands for Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung, a consumer research institute and polling company that a professor founded in Nuremberg in 1934 (a rather distinctive era in German history). It is now a behemoth with 12,000+ employees in 37 countries. Oh, you knew that? I bet you did. I did not until this morning learn what a GfK is. 'looked it up after scanning through the Associated Press's science newsfeed. It included this important if incremental piece of news with a partly-baffling headline, filed Friday:
- AP – Seth Borenstein: AP-GfK Poll: Science doubters say world is warming; The lede, in fine inverted pyramid style, sums things up with keen dispatch: A growing majority of Americans think global warming is occurring, that it will become a serious problem and that the US government should do something about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.
Take THAT Marc Morano, Competitive Enterprise Institute, US Chamber of Commerce, Koch billionaires, and Heartland Institute not to mention Fox News. As one who'se been worried since Roger Revelle and company spelled out to me and other reporters the problem in pretty plain English 30 years ago, I'd say it's awfully late but better than never for science to get more sway on this topic.
But really, AP headline writers. If this had said AP-Roper, or -Gallup, or -Nielsen, or -Rasmussen, or any of several other polling companies familiar to Americans the hed would excite no puzzlement (at least and for other reasons not among people outside the end of the political spectrum heavily populated by wingnuts and fossil-fuel devotees). It turns out that AP and GfK are also affiliated with Roper in this confederation. The story says something about that in paragraph 17. The combo has done similar polling for several years. But I'd bet few readers have yet put GfK in their cranium's file of familiar terms. Perhaps better this hed should have left out the self-serving corporate labeling at the very front. The second or third graf could more usefully but as an aside say AP partnered up with yada yada polling firms to conduct this updated canvass of America's shifting opinion on the potential end of Earth as we've known it.
See the very last snippet of this post, down there in Grist, to glimpse at the complexity of writing about one's employer. Not to pick on AP. I seem to recall that another big wire service sometimes does the same thing when it writes about its own polls and other such business by suddenly referring prominently to Thomson Reuters. These examples are trivial but they seem to say something about what happens to news judgment when a media company has a direct interest in an event. For instance, in how lavishly and sometimes knowingly inaccurately my old paper, the SF Chronicle, covered the annual Fourth of July fireworks show at Crissy Field near the Golden Gate that it sponsored for many years.
Borenstein's story is well-constructed in other regards. He slyly recounts how the ups and downs of US public opinion over the years are highly correlated with weather events, not so much with the persuasive powers of scientific explanation of abstract climatology. More important, the story relates that the most recalcitrant sorts of people, those who don't much trust science compared to what their gut says, are swinging heavily toward acceptance of climate change as serious and in need of action. One does wonder how Seth got his source who fits that demographic, a DC photographer. But the fellow does fit perfectly the quote-slot the wire service's amazingly prolific science reporter needed.
This and other recent polls attracted some other media interest. None said GfK at the front of the headline.
- MSN Now: Even doubters are warming up to the idea of climate change ; A shorty, doesn't mention GfK – expending scarce syllables to refer to a "German research firm."
- Guardian (UK) Suzanne Goldenberg: Extreme weather more persuasive on climate change than scientists / AP poll shows that events like superstorm Sandy are succeeding with climate sceptics where scientists have been failing ;
- Gawker – Hamilton Nolan: Poll: Even Idiots Believe in Global Warming Now ; Links readers immediately to the AP story itself, but nowhere in its own text identifies who did the poll. Uses "idiot" many times. To think, I started to composed almost exactly this hed myself, before doing much tracking, then decided to feign a little bit more sobriety on the issue.
- The Hill – Ben Geman: Poll: 4 out of 5 call climate change a serious US problem ;
- ANI (India-based agency): 80 pc Americans consider global warming as serious problems for U.S., finds poll ;