Polling conducted in August by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that the majority of the British public—including the majority of Conservative voters—agree that climate change is a direct threat to the UK, and a plurality of 2019 Conservative voters do not think the Government is doing enough to tackle climate change. Prime Minister Boris Johnson then announced a ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ in November, with the aim of becoming a net-zero nation and creating 250,000 jobs in green industries. Yet, as the pandemic’s grip on the economy continues, some have resisted the green recovery policy, claiming that this is not the time to be pushing a green agenda. Instead, they suggest, a rapid economic recovery uninhibited by environmental restrictions is needed.
In a poll of Conservative voters conducted last week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies found a plurality of 2019 Conservative voters (45%) thinking protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it detrimental to the economy, whereas 40% say it should not. Opposition to the idea of prioritising economic protections at the cost of the economy has risen slightly since October but remains a minority view.
Pluralities in all age groups except for those 65 and over agree that protecting the environment should be a priority, even if it is detrimental to the economy. Younger 2019 Conservative voters appear to be especially keen, with 55% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 56% of 25-to-34-year-olds agreeing. However, there has been a slight decrease in support since October across these younger age groups, which may be due to the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has had on the economy.
45% of 2019 Conservative voters think financial assistance from the Government to businesses that have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic should be tied to changes in the environmental policies of such businesses. Only a third (33%) of Conservative voters disagree.
The majority of 2019 Conservative voters under 55 would support financial assistance being tied to changes in environmental policies of businesses impacted by the pandemic, while a third (32%) of those 65 and over think the two should be linked. These results point to the oldest age group of Conservative voters differing with the rest of the Party over environmental issues.
Overall, a plurality of Conservative voters would support prioritising environmental protections irrespective of its effect on the economy—even during the current economic hardship caused by the pandemic. A plurality of 2019 Conservative voters clearly see the economic recovery from the pandemic as an opportunity to encourage businesses to take a more environmentally friendly path, and many would support financial assistance for struggling businesses being tied with improved environmental policy. Environmentalism is especially popular among younger Conservative voters, and even in the United States there has been a push by Republican-leaning young people to shift their party’s views towards a more pro-environment platform.
Yet it is one thing to encourage green industries–as Boris Johnson has laid out in his plan for a green recovery–and another to withhold financial support for businesses impacted by the pandemic based on their environmental policies. It is important to note that a significant minority of 2019 Conservative voters do not think environmentalism should be pursued if it is detrimental to the economy, nor support financial assistance during the pandemic being tied with environmental policy improvements.