Guardian ICM UK poll reveals desire for a green and pleasant landJuly 2, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Climate change, Environment, Global warming | Leave a comment
Tags: British class structure, Choices, Climate change, Environment, Government, Guardian, ICM, Lifestyles, Polls, Surveys, Voters
According to this latest ICM poll, British people are, it seems, more concerned about the environment and more caring for their families, neighbours and fellow world citizens than the British Government and sections of the media like to give us credit for.
In fact, today’s front page story in The Guardian illustrates how far out of touch the government is (once again) on voters’ priorities:
Climate more urgent than economy, say voters
by Julian Glover
The Guardian, Wednesday July 2, 2008
… Today’s poll also throws into question whether the environment is an issue that only matters to richer, southern voters. Although women are more likely than men to place the environment ahead of the economy as an issue – 55% of women say it is a priority, against 49% of men – support for action is strong across all ages, regions and social groups.
Far from being the greenest part of the population, middle-class voters are actually more sceptical than most about the need for action, perhaps because they fear they have more to lose from increased bills and taxes. Voters in the richest AB group are the only ones to place the economy ahead of the environment as a government priority: 50% say the economy and 47% the environment.
In the south-east of England 52% say the economy matters most, against 38% of Scots. Attitudes are more likely to be shaped by how much money people have and how much they might have to pay.
There is also no evidence that the environment is an issue that matters more to young people. Pensioners are almost as likely as people aged 18-24 to say climate change should be the government’s priority.
For further analysis, see this article by Mark Lynas
Today’s poll shows that public concern about climate change has reached a critical mass and now includes the less well-off
… perhaps the most fascinating result of all emerges from the small print of the different social classes of the ICM survey respondents. Environmentalists are constantly accused of being middle-class lifestyle faddists, who don’t understand the day-to-day financial pressures faced by “ordinary” working people. But the number of people who thought that environment should be the government’s priority rather than the economy was substantially higher (56%) among the lower income, less well-educated DE demographic than among the better-off ABs (47%). Lower-income social groups also have a much lighter environmental footprint overall: only 42% of DEs took a foreign holiday over the last three years, whilst 77% of ABs did. Better-off people also own more cars, as you might expect – only 5% of DEs have three or more cars, whilst 15% of ABs do.
So perhaps anti-environmental class warriors like the editors of Spiked need to find a new cause to champion. The working-class people who they claim “can’t afford to be concerned about climate change” actually care more about the future of the planet than the rich – and are doing a lot less damage to boot. So next time you hear someone defending motorway expansion or cheap flights on behalf of the British poor, ask yourself the question: whose side are they really on?
I do have an alternative suggestion for pollsters the next time they ask people’s opinions. That is to ask where or how each person developed his or her opinions, who influenced them, and where those opinions are most supported—at work, home, or in the wider world. It is not just education and greater information that leads people to acknowledge scientists’ expertise, take note of their observations, and accept their recommendations on emissions targets needed to tackle climate change. Environmental concern depends to a large degree on upbringing, opportunities, common sense, attachment to the real world, appreciation of nature, consumer spending habits, leisure activities, whether your job depends on deluding yourself, and whether you feel intimidated at work if you harbour alternative views from your boss and colleagues. I reckon that some ABs have to convince themselves that things aren’t so bad after all, in order to continue their lifestyles to impress other ABs with whom they associate. It is less to do with education and more to do with peer pressure, or class expectations, perhaps. Anyway, climate change is often treated with sincere concern, lack of serious attention, or contempt, so ends up as taboo in certain circles, for fear of offending employer/colleagues or another guest’s sensibilities.