Poll finds most Britons believe global warming will have far greater effect on humanity than Covid-19
A clear majority of people believe that climate change will have a more significant effect on humanity than will Covid-19, which has already claimed about five million lives worldwide, according to a new poll conducted ahead of the Cop26 summit being held in Glasgow this weekend.
The survey, carried out as part of a study into “eco-anxiety” by the Global Future thinktank in conjunction with the University of York, also finds that concern about global warming is almost as common among older and working-class people as it is among those who are young or middle-class. Overall, 78% of people reported some level of eco-anxiety.
The authors of the report say that their findings should serve as a warning to politicians who may believe that worries about the climate emergency are confined to younger, middle-class and metropolitan voters.
The YouGov poll of more than 2,100 people found that 56% believe the implications of climate change will be greater for the world than will those of the coronavirus pandemic, with a majority of all age groups and social classes holding this view.
Similarly, climate change is considered a top global priority among people of all age groups and backgrounds, and across all regions of the UK.
Despite this widespread concern about the climate crisis – with some 42% of middle and upper-class people reporting high eco-anxiety against 39% of working-class voters – people lack faith in political leaders to act. Some 31% of those questioned believe that the Cop26 summit will have little or no effect, 32% think it will have a moderate effect, while only 18% think it will have a big effect.
The polling found that the biggest difference in levels of eco-anxiety was not between rich and poor or young and old, but between men and women. Some 45% of female participants reported high levels of worry about climate change compared with 36% of men.
Rowenna Davis, author of the report and director of Global Future, said: “Everyone – rich and poor, young and old, north and south, men and women – is suffering eco-anxiety. Therefore, some cynical politicians who seek to use wedge issues like petrol prices to divide the public are not only wrong, they are also making a strategic error.
“Whoever hopes to win the next election will need to win the ‘red wall’. This will mean responding to concerns these voters actually hold rather than perceptions of them. From our research, this must include a meaningful response to climate change.”
Pavlos Vasilopoulos, politics lecturer at the University of York, added: “These findings contest commonly held views that the environment is only an issue for the southern middle class. Instead, climate change appears to be becoming more similar to issues such as unemployment or crime, which are recognised as priorities by the majority and are used to evaluate government performance.”
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