Archive for July, 2010

Is concern about climate change greater among elites?

Posted in Climate Sock, Demographics on July 18th, 2010 by leo – 3 Comments

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:

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How welcome is nuclear power?

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on July 4th, 2010 by leo – 5 Comments

A couple of months ago, EDF Energy put out a poll by YouGov which appeared to show that resistance to new nuclear power stations has decreased. Now, the new Understanding Risk/MORI poll covers much of the same ground about nuclear power, and shows some similar and interesting results.

Between them, the polls shed some light both on where the public stand in terms of different power options, and on the impact of arguments that make nuclear seem more attractive.

Interestingly, the Understanding Risk poll largely validates the results from EDF’s poll. While the latter may have been paid for by a company with something of an interest in a pro-nuclear result, the question structure didn’t seem particularly stacked to produce a result they wanted – and largely matched the results from Understanding Risk.

The polls are useful for understanding public attitudes towards nuclear power in two ways: they indicate how people regard nuclear at the moment, and they also help show the impact of arguments for nuclear power.

At a basic level, nuclear power is currently pretty much the least popular form of power generation in the UK. When asked favourability towards different sources, it comes in at the bottom of the pile – around the same place as both coal and gas.

Similarly, there is strong local opposition to the construction of new nuclear power stations. While three in four claim they would support wind farms being built within five miles of their home, only a quarter say the same about a new nuclear station.

However, the polls also show that this opposition is relatively soft. The arguments for nuclear power can change these attitudes quite strongly.

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