UK worries about climate are at a 5-year high – new analysis of climate polling since 2005

UK worries about climate change are at their joint-highest level for five years according to new data published today. The government’s new poll found that 71% say they’re concerned about climate change – about the same as its poll last year and as high as any poll since 2012.

In the US worries about climate recently went reached record levels.

It might be that a Trump effect has pushed up concern in the US: his dismissal of climate change may have perversely, drawn attention to the issue. Or perhaps it reflects the accumulation of severe weather events in the US and the success of campaigners there in raising concern about it them.

For whatever reason, worries in the UK haven’t seen such a dramatic increase, but have been gradually growing for the last few years.

As far as I’m aware, this blog is the first place to have compiled this 12-year data series – which comes from the near-identical question asked in several different sources – to produce this long-running tracker of UK worries about the climate. The latest finding is from the UK government’s opinion survey, the latest wave of which is published today.

See below for the data sources and why I’m not totally happy with comparing these results – but overall I think it’s ok to put them together and compare the trend over time.

The data comes from various different surveys, some of which I don’t have the full data for:

Oct-Nov 2005 – MORI, age 15+

May 2008 – MORI, age 15+

Jan-Mar 2010 – MORI, age 15+

Mar 2011, Aug 2012, Mar 2013, Aug-Oct 2014 – MORI, age 16+

Jun-Jul 2012, Mar 2013, Mar 2014, Mar 2015, Mar 2016, Mar 2017 – TNS, age 16+

I doubt the small age variation makes much difference.

My main concern is I haven’t seen some of the questionnaires/full data tables, so it’s not clear whether there were other questions that might have influenced respondents before they were asked about climate change.

The main risk is obviously the 2005 data. Since that’s the outlier in terms of worries, it would be useful to know if anything was done differently in the questionnaire (for example, did it follow other questions about the environment or severe weather events?). All I have is a reference to the 2005 results in a report from 2010. Given it’s so unlike the other results it might be tempting to assume there’s something dubious about it – but as we saw in the US, worries about climate change were higher around 2005 so it does seem possible the data here is right. Given that, I’m inclined to believe the results are ok.


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