Did you watch the first presidential debate? I did. I was in Austin, Texas, covering the 2012 SXSW Eco Conference, but instead of heading out to after-parties with the majority of attendees, I sneaked back to my Airbnb hosts’ house to watch the show. It was … interesting. There were a lot of puzzling, disappointing and outrageous moments, no matter which party you support. One of my least favorite moments occurred when Gov. Romney attacked the Obama administration’s support of renewable energy companies:
“You put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of [oil tax] breaks, into — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1,” Romney said. “I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this — this is not — this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.” The statement implied, as the GOP has stated overtly many times, that government ought to refrain from investing in clean energy companies — that it’s up to the market and the market alone to determine which companies are successful.
A new survey, released just days ago by the environmentally focused social network Ozoshare, seems to indicate that the American people contradict Romney’s statement. At first glance, the results of the commissioned survey, titled, “Government Involvement: Furthering the Green Movement” show that a majority of Americans, 67 percent, feel that government should be involved in furthering the green movement.
“What is important about this survey is that regardless of political persuasion, the overwhelming majority of survey respondents believe that the green movement is growing and that government should play an active role in furthering the movement,” said Thomas Smith Jr., Ozoshare’s president. “While education and financial incentives should be a part of the government’s plan, the overarching point here is that it is imperative for the U.S. to become a greener and more socially responsible society in order to ensure long-term health and survival of life on earth.”
Upon closer inspection, however, results might not be quite as emphatic as Ozoshare would like us to believe. One thing strangely absent from announcements about the survey was a clear indication of how many people participated, and how they self-identified politically. When I queried a spokesperson for Ozoshare about the omission of this data, here’s what he said:
“…the survey was answered by 60 respondents. The survey was distributed via email to a list of several thousand U.S. residents. The list was purchased from a U.S. list vendor. No specific segmentation was done regarding occupation, status, race, gender, etc. as this was intended to represent a general cross-section of the population.”
Now I’m no social scientists, but my grad school experience did leave me with a working knowledge of how surveys work and what constitutes a representative sample.