How far is concern about climate change the preserve of the elite? It’s a simple question, but one that I’ve not previously seen answered convincingly. Many of the polls I’ve covered break out the data by social grade and education, but yet none of them show really clear distinctions in attitudes towards climate change.
However, a new poll by YouGov does show something different. Their poll was commissioned by Chatham House, and sampled both UK general public, and a YouGov panel of ‘influential people’. Here, there was more difference between the audiences than I’ve seen from looking at distinctions of social grade or education, with the elite panel apparently significantly more concerned about climate change than the rest of the population.
First, a quick word on the panel. It’s operated by YouGovStone, a partner agency of YouGov, who say it “includes Parliamentarians, business leaders, senior journalists, senior professionals in health and education, academics and charity leaders”. I can’t find any more details about the make-up of their panel, so have no way of knowing what this means in practice. A panel may include these people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it only includes these people, or that they participated in all of the polls sent to them. Nonetheless, I have no reason to doubt the assertion that the panel represents “‘elite’ opinion-formers”.
The survey looks at various aspects of foreign affairs, with two questions that touch on climate change. The first asks about “current of possible future threats to the British way of life”. In the general public sample, 25% choose climate change/global warming (sixth placed); among the elites, 44% do so (fourth placed). (Respondents were limited to choosing a max of four issues – so the difference can’t just be explained by one audience picking many more threats overall)
Similarly, in terms of tackling climate change, the elite panel are much more convinced of the need for action: