British public sharply divided on climate and energy policy options.
Exclusive new polling carried out on behalf of the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) by YouGov has found that when asked about energy policy, the public were sharply divided between those who wanted lower energy bills and those who favoured action on climate change. Asked which of these two priorities the Government should focus on most of all, 45% of people said ‘reducing energy bills for households’ compared to 40% who preferred ‘stronger climate change targets’.
There were striking differences in response based on political affiliation, which appear to show that the topic of climate change is now dividing voters along similar lines to the EU referendum. 59% of those who voted Leave in the EU referendum and 57% of Conservative voters thought reducing energy bills should take precedence. In contrast, 58% of Labour voters and 66% of Lib Dems thought stronger climate targets should be a bigger priority.
Britain was also split along regional and class lines. In the North and Midlands a greater number of people prioritised lower energy bills, whereas in London and the South there was more support for stronger climate change targets. Those designated as ‘ABC1’ supported stronger climate targets by a ratio of 47% to 39%, while ‘C2DE’ respondents supported action to reduce energy bills by a ratio of 53% to 31%.
These results appear to support the findings of a November 2019 Sky Data poll which suggested that climate change was now dividing the UK in a similar way to Brexit.
The GWPF also asked which actions people would be likely to take within the next five years to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. While other recent surveys have suggested the overall objective of reaching Net Zero emissions is popular, these results show that many people are nevertheless reluctant to make changes to reduce their own emissions.
Survey participants were also asked how likely, if at all, they would be to take a variety of actions in order to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions within the next five years. The option of becoming a vegan was overwhelmingly unpopular, with only 11% of people said they were very or fairly likely to take this step, with a total of 83% responding that it was unlikely. The most popular action was to invest in energy efficiency measures (such as better insulation and new consumer goods). A total of 63% of respondents said they were likely to do this.
There were also revealing political differences in the answers to this set of questions. In particular, Conservative voters said they were unlikely to eat less meat (62% unlikely) or take public transport more (56% said unlikely), whereas these actions were supported by a majority of Lib Dems (55% likely to use public transport more) and Labour supporters (59% likely).
In light of these results, the GWPF is calling on the Government to pay more attention to its voters’ concerns about energy prices.
Fieldwork was conducted 2-3 January 2020. Full tables are available here.
Head of Policy
Global Warming Policy Forum