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Sunak and Climate: Climbing an Electoral Mountain

Chris Holbrook Find Out Now Market Research

Chris Holbrook

25th Sep, 2023 | 7 mins read

Find Out Now has conducted a nationally represented poll of 2,009 GB adults for Channel 4 News about Rishi Sunak’s proposed loosening of Britain’s green policies.

Key Points

  • 41% say not sticking to green commitments makes them “less likely” to vote Conservative (Vs. 12% “more likely).
  • More support among 2019 Conservative voters (27% “more likely”), although 1 in 5 say “less likely” (21%)
  • A quarter support delaying climate action for economic reasons, while over a third disagree.

Key Analysis

Support for Tory Government after change in climate change commitments:

Conservative voters (2019) are, predictably, more attracted (27%) by the proposed revisions than repelled, but a sizable minority (21%) say “less likely”.

Cost-of-Living Vs. Climate:

When asked a different way, with an “economic” context, the negative reaction is less pronounced, with only 16% against, versus 14% in favour.

Support for individual policies varies. More respondents indicated they would be less likely to vote Tory if the government abandoned the pledge to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 (31% less likely vs. 17% more likely). However, when asked which scrapped policy should have been kept, 51% chose ‘none of the above.’ For a detailed breakdown, please refer to the full report at the end of this article.

There seems to be more support for a slight relaxation of climate policies. However, respondents still expect the government to uphold climate commitments. For those undecided between Labour and the Conservatives, the central question may well be whether Sunak’s proposed changes can effectively strike a balance between economic priorities and meeting the UK’s promised climate targets.

Net Zero: Hindered or Enhanced?

Far more respondents (39%) believed the announced measures will hinder our ability to meet our 2050 Net Zero target, compared to only 9% who thought it would help.

The division among 2019 General Election voters is significant: Among 2019 Tory voters, 15% expect improvement compared to 24% who anticipate hindrance. Among 2019 Labour voters, only 8% anticipate improvement, while a significant 60% believe it will hinder progress.

Is Britain a Net Zero leader?

In his speech confirming the policy changes, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed “Britain is leading the world on climate change.”  Three times as many disagree (45%) than agree (15%) with this assertion.

Our respondents’ views on climate change are complex. They generally support the government’s climate pledges but aren’t enthusiastic about specific policies to achieve them. The political impact in the general election remains uncertain, as rolling back environmental policies is likely to be unpopular. Moreover, some economists warn of long-term economic harm, making Sunak’s recent climate rollback seem less beneficial to many.

Full Reports

If the current Conservative government does not stick to the commitments it has already made on Climate Change, would you be more or less likely to vote for them at the next General Election?

If the current Conservative government does not stick to its commitment to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, would you be more or less likely to vote for them at the next General Election?

“Britain is leading the world on climate change” – To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Which of the following commitments would you like the current Conservative government to stick to? (Please select all that apply)

To what extent do you support or oppose the Government’s plans to relax climate policies in the face of economic challenges?

To what extent do you believe these plans will improve or hinder the UK’s ability to achieve Net Zero by 2050?

Read more blogs about Find Out Now’s UK Opinion polling

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Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash