Climate is more urgent than the economy but .. - voters’ poll.

2/7/2008 Guardian   Voters think that taking action against climate change matters more than tackling the global economic downturn
according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. The results, which will delight green campaigners, suggest that support for environmental action is not collapsing as feared in the face of possible recession.
When asked whether tackling the environment or the economy - given global economic problems - should be the government’s priority, 52% said the environment and 44% said the economy. That contradicts the widespread assumption that environmental issues are seen by voters as a luxury to be put aside in
tough economic times.
Almost two-thirds of those questioned also backed the idea of introducing green taxes to discourage actions that harm the environment: 63% support new taxes, against 35% who are firmly against them.
The poll, commissioned as part of a Guardian series examining the impact of the economy on the environment, suggests that climate change is now a mainstream political issue, with the public appetite for action stronger than many politicians believe.
The high cost of many environmental schemes, such as the government’s £100bn renewable energy plan announced last week, does not seem to have deterred voters.   But the poll, reflecting findings in earlier surveys, also shows people want the government to sort out the problem rather than take on responsibility
themselves.   While most people place the environment ahead of the economy as a national priority, only 19% say they would actually choose to pay more for a more expensive environmentally friendly product while shopping. Far more people, 58%, would buy a cheaper alternative, even if it was less good for the environment. Overall enthusiasm for measures such as green taxes also fades when voters are asked to make an immediate choice in the face of economic troubles. While two-thirds back them in principle, only 30% think the government should be introducing them now, irrespective of the economy.
The number of people who oppose green taxes outright is small - only 31% say this, even after they have been asked to consider the state of the economy. But 36% say the government should delay bringing them in. That suggests ministers may have a battle on their hands if they press on with plans to increase
environmentally-beneficial taxes such as increased fuel duty and higher road tax on older polluting cars.
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. · ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults aged 18-plus by telephone between June 28 and 29 2008. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full results and comment from the Guardian’s Green Squeeze series available at

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