Skip to main content
  • Overview
  • Feb '24
    Redfield & Wilton polling: Labour & Conservative voters think climate change not being taken seriously enough
  • Jan '24
    Report finds a rise in ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube and a third of UK teenagers agreeing that climate change is exaggerated
  • Carbon Brief analysis shows record opposition to climate action by right-leaning UK newspapers in 2023
  • Nov '23
    Tracker data: Public oppose fracking, but it continues to polarise MPs
  • Tracker data: No signs of polarisation around the 2050 net zero target
  • Oct '23
    More in Common: Labour can increase support among key Red Wall ‘Loyal Nationals’ by focusing on green investment
  • Tracker data: Do MPs see Net Zero as a vote winner or loser in Red and Blue Wall seats?
  • Making sense of UK polarisation on climate change
  • Comment: What do the Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire by-elections tell us about support for climate policies?
  • Sep '23
    Onward research: How to build support for net zero policies among Conservative voters
  • Public First: Sunak’s Net Zero speech may scarcely cut through to voters
  • Comment: Polling makes misleading claims about support for clean air zones and net zero
  • Apr '23
    More in Common: Britain’s ‘quiet majority’ want less talk and more action on green energy
  • Sep '22
    More in Common research shows how to engage ‘Blue Wall pragmatists’ on climate change
  • Jul '22
    Carbon Brief: How UK newspapers changed their minds about climate change
  • Oct '20
    Britain Talks Climate: climate change concerns us all, regardless of income, background or politics
Topic

Polarisation

Filter content Please note: The page will automatically update when any filters are changed or set.
  • In Brief

    Polarisation is the divergence of attitudes away from the centre, and towards the extremes. It is more than simply the presence of differences in opinion between people with different political values, although it is often used as a catch-all term for describing differences in opinion among the public.

    In Anglophone nations, especially the US and Australia, sharp divides between left and right-wing political ideologies have long been a defining feature of the climate change discourse. And the UK has its own specific history when it comes to polarisation of public and political opinion on climate change.

    Tracker data published twice a year by the Climate Barometer shows clear differences between left and right-leaning voters on some issues (for example on support for phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars) but much less divergence elsewhere (for example around support for reaching net zero by 2050). Among MPs, there is more volatility and starker polarisation especially around support for onshore wind among Conservative MPs.

    The story of polarisation around climate change in the UK continues, and this thread presents opinion data showing differences and commonalities across social and political divides alongside key political developments and resources for engaging across the political spectrum.

  • Opinion Insight 21st February 2024

    Redfield & Wilton polling: Labour & Conservative voters think climate change not being taken seriously enough

    In the past 6 months, both the Conservatives and Labour have reduced their green policy ambitions. First, the Conservatives announced delays to some near-term net zero targets. more recently, Labour said it would no longer be investing £28 billion per year into green projects. Across this period, polls have indicated that voters expect leadership from politicians on climate change, and want more (rather than less) action on climate.

    New polling from Redfield & Wilton (in the wake of these announcements) asked voters for the two main parties to select between a number of competing statements, across a range of topics.

    Conservative voters are more likely to believe that the threat of climate change is not being taken seriously (66%) than they are to believe that the threat of climate change to the UK has been overstated (34%). For Labour voters, a full 77% believe climate change is not being taken seriously enough, with only 23% seeing the risk to the UK as overstated.

    • Author: Redfield & Wilton
    • Date: 13th February 2024
    Media Insight 16th January 2024

    Report finds a rise in ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube and a third of UK teenagers agreeing that climate change is exaggerated

    Using an AI-supported analysis of climate change content on Youtube (going back to 2018), a report from the Centre for Countering Digital Hate makes a distinction between ‘old denial’ narratives (e.g. that global temperatures aren’t increasing), and ‘new denial’ narratives (e.g. that rising global temperatures can in fact be beneficial).  Whilst ‘old denial’ narratives are now less common, ‘new denial’ narratives have increased and now constitute 70% of climate denial content on Youtube in 2023.

    Strikingly, in a nationally representative survey of young people in the UK, 31% of respondents aged 13-17 agreed that ‘Climate change and its effects are being purposefully over-exaggerated’, rising to 37% among teenagers who were heavy users of social media.

    This stands in contrast with Climate Barometer tracker data, where the claim that climate change is exaggerated was unpopular among young people aged 18-24 (a slightly older age group), perhaps indicating a pivot between earlier and later teenage years on susceptibility to this form of ‘new denial’ narrative. Alternatively, it may be a cohort effect that hasn’t been obvious because the majority of polling focuses on those aged 18 and over.

    Content which is critical of clean energy solutions, seeking to discredit them or draw attention to the financial costs of green policies, was included in the ‘new denial’ category. An analysis of newspaper editorials in 2023 by Carbon Brief found a record number of UK newspaper editorials opposing climate action (almost exclusively from right-leaning titles) utilising very similar arguments.

    • Source: Center for Countering Digital Hate | CCDH
    • Date: 16th January 2024
    Media Insight 16th January 2024

    Carbon Brief analysis shows record opposition to climate action by right-leaning UK newspapers in 2023

    An analysis by the website Carbon Brief has found a record number of editorials in UK newspapers (almost exclusively right-leaning publications) that oppose climate action. Carbon Brief writes:

    Newspapers such as the Sun and the Daily Mail published 42 editorials in 2023 arguing against climate action – nearly three times more than they have printed before in a single year. They called for delays to UK bans on the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars and boilers, as well as for more oil-and-gas production in the North Sea. In response to such demands, prime minister Rishi Sunak performed a “U-turn” in September on some of his government’s major net-zero policies.

    Climate Barometer tracker data suggests a correspondence (cause and effect is harder to establish) between the views of Conservative MPs on net zero policies, and the views expressed in these editorials. But among the public there is not such a clear relationship, with even Conservative voters ambivalent on whether delays to net zero targets are in touch, or out of touch with public sentiment:

    Opposition to climate policies is not only found in right-leaning editorials, however. An analysis by the the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found a surge in what they call ‘new denial’ narratives on Youtube in 2023. These include attempts to discredit green energy technologies, or exaggerate their cost – positions that mirror the editorial content analysed by Carbon Brief.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 30th November 2023

    Tracker data: Public oppose fracking, but it continues to polarise MPs

    Climate Barometer tracker data shows that there is significantly more support than opposition for ending fracking in the UK.

    A closer look reveals further details: by splitting the data according to party political support, there is a more equal division among Conservative voters on whether the UK should end fracking.

    But opposition to ending fracking is particularly high among Conservative MPs (55%). This stands in stark contrast with Labour MPs, 85% of whom support ending fracking. This makes fracking one of the most polarising aspects of the energy system among MPs – on many other issues (insulation, solar, offshore wind) there is much less difference between the representatives of different political parties.

     

    Climate Barometer Tracker 10th November 2023

    Tracker data: No signs of polarisation around the 2050 net zero target

    Three waves of Climate Barometer tracker data show that there is no evidence of polarisation among the public or among MPs in terms of support for the 2050 net zero target. This is important in the context of the shifts in the discourse on net zero in 2023 (driven by the announcement of delays to some nearer-term net zero targets) by the Conservative government.

    In the figure below, there is majority support among Conservative and Labour voters and Conservative and Labour MPs (Conservative and Labour voters are defined by the party they voted for in the 2019 General Election).

    In the figure below, despite the widespread support for net zero among both MPs and the public across party lines, MPs from both major political parties tend to underestimate levels of public support. Only 28% of MPs (27% of Conservative MPs and 24% of Labour MPs) correctly guessed between 60-71%.

    From the Climate Community 27th October 2023

    More in Common: Labour can increase support among key Red Wall ‘Loyal Nationals’ by focusing on green investment

    Writing for Labour List, More in Common’s Luke Tryl sets out why there is a chance to increase support among crucial ‘Red Wall’ voters (represented by the Loyal Nationals audience in More in Common’s Britain’s Choice model), arguing that:

    Perhaps the area with the greatest potential lies in Labour’s green prosperity plan. Public support for the plan is high at 57%, rising to 61% among loyal national voters and a mammoth 84% among the group of voters who opted for the Conservatives in 2019 but who are now voting Labour.

    Coupled with Public First polling showing that delaying net zero whilst failing to tax oil and gas companies is a vote loser, there is clearly a space for making a bolder, fair pitch to the electorate on green policies: consistent political leadership is an essential piece of the puzzle for building public support for the specifics of the transition.

    Climate Barometer Tracker 26th October 2023

    Tracker data: Do MPs see Net Zero as a vote winner or loser in Red and Blue Wall seats?

    Climate Barometer tracker data shows MPs see ‘Red Wall’ and ‘Blue Wall’ seats quite differently. For ‘Blue wall’ seats (historically safe Conservative seats that have become swing seats), Conservative and Labour MPs correctly judge that net zero is a vote winner.

    For ‘Red wall’ seats (historically safe Labour seats that have become swing seats), Conservative and Labour MPs have very different opinions. Labour MPs are much more likely to say that net zero is a vote winner (37% in April 2023) compared to only 7% of Conservative MPs. But both groups of MPs have become more convinced during 2023 that net zero is a vote-loser in Red Wall seats.

    In fact, there are no voter groups (or age groups, genders or regions) where there is not comfortably more support than opposition for net zero.

    Opinion Insight 27th September 2023

    Public First: Sunak’s Net Zero speech may scarcely cut through to voters

    In research carried out just before Rishi Sunak’s speech announcing changes to the UK’s net zero targets in September 2023 (including a 4,000 sample, nationally-representative poll and eight focus groups of 2019 Conservative voters who are now undecided), Public First’s James Frayne argues that Sunak’s speech will have a maginally negative impact on overall support for the Conservatives. Read Frayne’s analysis here:

    Sunak’s Net Zero speech may scarcely cut through to voters at all outside the bubble

    From the Climate Community 20th April 2023

    More in Common: Britain’s ‘quiet majority’ want less talk and more action on green energy

    The image of Britain “split down the middle” on issues of local renewable development projects is not, according to research by More in Common, an accurate depiction of public opinion.

    In focus groups with communities in two regions where green energy developments have been presented as contentious and controversial in local media, they report that:

    “Most Brits are balancers, tired of the loudest voices dominating debates, and eager for us just to get on with it quietly, less talk, less fuss and more action.”

    While renewable energy projects are often positioned as controversial, and do attract some loud minority opposition, these conversations suggested people were often not aware of planned developments, and were typically broadly supportive when offered the chance to reflect on them.

    • Source: More in Common
    • Author: Conleth Burns
    • Date: 20th April 2023
    Media Insight 6th July 2022

    Carbon Brief: How UK newspapers changed their minds about climate change

    Carbon Brief has released a report reviewing a decade’s worth of climate change editorials – and reports that:

    Between 2011-2016 editorial articles in publications such as the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail generally opposed action to tackle climate change, citing “unreliable” science and “expensive” environmental policies.

    But in recent years – a period that has seen the Conservative government commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and host the COP26 climate summit – right-leaning publications have more readily embraced some efforts to cut emissions.

    As a result, these newspapers are now far more likely to support climate action in their editorial pages than oppose it.

    Opinion Insight 19th October 2020

    Britain Talks Climate: climate change concerns us all, regardless of income, background or politics

    A key headline message from the Britain Talks Climate toolkit (grounded in the Britain’s Choice audience segmentation) is that climate change is currently not a polarised issue for Britons, with majorities of all segments saying that it is an issue for everyone, regardless of income, background or politics.

    The figure shows a stacked bar chart of agreement with one of two statements, split by the seven British segments.
    Majorities of all seven British segments believe climate change affects everyone, regardless of income or background
    The figure shows a stacked bar chart of agreement with one of two statements, split by the seven British segments.
    Majorities of all seven British segments believe climate change is not just a concern for left-wing people
    • Source: Climate Outreach
    • Date: 20th October 2020

Add Feedback