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Scientific Research or Advocacy? Emotive Labels and Selection Bias Confound Survey Results

Jerome K Vanclay, Southern Cross University


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Robert Costanza presents four compelling visions of the future, but the language he uses to describe them is emotive and value-laden and may bias the survey results. The descriptions and analogies used may evoke responses from the survey participants that reveal more about their reactions to the description than their attitudes toward a given scenario. It is hypothesized that the use of more neutral language may lead to more support for the scenario involving "self-limited consumption with ample resources" that Costanza calls "Big Government." If this hypothesis is correct, then the skeptic's policy that Costanza appears to prefer has the additional advantage of always leading to the favored outcome, regardless of the state of the world.

Key words

advocacy, selection bias, survey
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087