Voters think that Climate Change is a top priority, but it won’t affect who they vote for.
Part one of this post showed how, while voters were heavily concerned about climate change, it was not a voting issue in national elections. This post will attempt to analyse some possible reasons for this paradox.
Important but not the most important issue?
The most obvious explanation of the disparity is that, while people are concerned about climate change, it is not the single most important issue for them, i.e. the one that would change who they voted for. This is backed up by a survey conducted by ICM Research before Gordon Brown became prime minister, which showed that only 7% of the population thought that climate change should be the top priority for Brown when he succeeded (However, this survey was also conducted before the flooding in 2007, which is likely to have caused more responses in favour of climate change issues.)
Another alternative explanation is that climate change does not rank high on the domestic agenda because people believe that it is beyond the power of the government to tackle climate change without international co-operation. A 2007 Yougov poll states that 54% of voters believe that there is no point in the U.K. acting alone on climate change and that 20% more voters would support policies that forced people to change their lifestyles if other countries did it. Over 66% think that Russia, India and China would not stick to an emissions control deal and 64% think that the U.S.A would not (N.B. U.S. data is likely to have changed significantly since the recent elections).
It’s already too late?
The number of climate fatalists in the U.K. may also help explain some of the disparity. 59% of people (Yougov 2008) strongly agree or tend to agree that it is too late to stop climate change. This would explain the high level of concern yet the apparent unwillingness to make climate change the central issue in domestic politics.
Lack of trust in government
Polls such as Yougov 2007 which put 54% of people thinking that Britain should do more to tackle climate change do not specify government or popular / corporate action. 57% are not very or not at all confident that the government will “deal with climate change in the next few years”(Yougov 2006). A ComRes poll puts 40% of the population agreeing that the government exaggerates the threat of climate change and that 69% think green taxes are part of a tax-rising agenda. The combination of the lack of belief and lack of trust in the government’s climate change policy may contribute heavily to the fact that climate change is not a significant voting issue.