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Perception Gaps

Climate Citizens report: MPs underestimate the importance of the environment for voters

23 October 2023

The political mandate for climate action has strengthened over the past five years according to a report led by the Climate Citizens research group at Lancaster University. But the same report also notes there’s a belief among some MPs that climate concern is concentrated among middle-class and wealthier voters. One MP interviewed for the report said:

If you’re struggling you’re not going to be thinking ‘has COP26 been of success or not?’ They don’t give a damn about offshore, onshore wind, that’s completely irrelevant to their lives.

In fact, resources like Britain Talks Climate show climate change is important across social groups. And typically, the ‘loud minorities’ who oppose renewable energy projects are likely to be over-represented among wealthier constituents.

Our Climate Barometer tracker data shows that MPs underestimate the salience of the environment for voters relative to other issues.

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The latest from the Perception Gaps timeline:

From the Climate Community 22nd February 2024

Video: People want climate action so why don’t politicians get it?

Climate Barometer’s Adam Corner created a short video talking about perception gaps, in collaboration with ‘Need to Know UK and VideoRev. 

Opinion Insight 12th February 2024

Global study shows climate perception gaps are prevalent around the world

A new survey of nearly 130,000 people across 125 countries has found that there is widespread support for climate action around the world. But, people often don’t realise how much support there is.

The open access article, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, presents new, large-scale evidence of a global mandate for climate action, while shining a light on the pervasiveness of climate ‘perception gaps’. The headline findings across the global dataset show that:

  • 89% demand intensified political action.
  • 86% endorse the pro-climate ‘social norm’ that people in their country should try to fight global warming. 
  • Strikingly, 69% of the global population expresses a willingness to contribute 1% of their personal income. 

However, this ‘actual’ support for climate action was at a mismatch with what people ‘perceived’ the levels of support to be. Around the world, people “systematically underestimate the willingness of their fellow citizens to act”.

And these discrepancies matter. If we don’t believe there’s a mandate for green policies, inertia slows the pace of the green transition. ‘Perception gaps’ like these have consequences.

  • Source: Nature
  • Authors: Peter Andre, Teodora Boneva, Felix Chopra & Armin Falk
  • Date: 9th February 2024
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