Skip to content

Public Now More Concerned About Coronavirus Than Climate Change

The Global Warming Policy Forum

A new opinion poll commissioned by The Global Warming Policy Forum has revealed that when asked about the overall impact on humanity, the British public are now more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic than climate change. 

Carried out by polling company, YouGov, the results represent a massive swing in public opinion since 12thMarch, when the public were first asked: ‘Regarding the overall impact on humanity, are you more concerned about the impact of coronavirus or climate change?’ This time, 54% said ‘coronavirus’, up from 32% in March. Only 30% said ‘climate change’, down from 45%. 

There were significant differences in response based on political affiliation. A whopping 67% of Conservative voters said they were more concerned about coronavirus, compared to only 19% who said climate change. Labour voters were evenly split, with coronavirus and climate change both scoring 43%. These differences were reflected in the opinions of different age groups, with older voters relatively more concerned about coronavirus and younger voters evenly split.

The survey also questioned people about how they thought the government should act after the pandemic. Participants were asked which statement came closest to their opinion:

‘The government should prioritise getting the economy moving again even if it could mean relaxing climate change targets.’

‘The government should prioritise both the economy and climate change targets equally.’

‘The government should prioritise sticking to climate change targets even if it could mean a slower recovery for the economy.’

The results revealed that while a plurality thought that both the economy and climate change should be prioritised equally (42%), there were significantly more people who thought that the government should concentrate on getting the economy moving again (34%), compared to those who thought climate change should be prioritised (14%). This was particularly the case among Conservative voters, who by a large margin thought that the economy should be prioritised even if it meant that climate change targets might have to be relaxed (56%).

For a Conservative government that has committed the objective of Net Zero emissions to legislation, and which is now touting a ‘green recovery’, these results could be interpreted as a warning that voters will be reluctant to tolerate decarbonisation policies that hit growth. 

It was also revealed that much of the public is yet to form a strong view about what the implications of Net Zero will be. When asked if they thought net zero carbon emissions would have a positive or negative effect on the economy, or make no difference, during the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, 29% of respondents answered ‘don’t know’. 17% answered that they thought it would have a negative effect, and 34% thought it would have a positive effect, while 20% thought there would be no difference.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,686 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th – 14th May 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Full tables are available here


Harry Wilkinson
Head of Policy
The Global Warming Policy Forum