Support for environmental policies is widespread but not universal
According to the latest wave of polling from UnHerd Britain, most of the country is now supportive of the “green” emphasis of the main political parties, but pockets of resistance remain in Yorkshire, the North East and Wales. When presented with the statement ‘The Government spends too much time on green issues’, 30% of the population agrees but a larger group, 42%, disagrees, believing that the emphasis is appropriate or even insufficient. A further 29% are not sure.
The polling, conducted by FocalData, analysed responses from 10,000 voters using MRP to produce estimates for all 632 constituencies in Great Britain (the Northern Irish constituencies are more difficult to poll in this manner, and have been excluded from the exercise).
The voters least convinced by the green agenda are concentrated in specific parts of the country. The five constituencies which most strongly agree that green issues are given too much time are all industrial areas of Yorkshire. Barnsley is Britain’s most green-sceptic town, as the top two national constituencies which most strongly agree with the statement are Barnsley Central and Barnsley East. Further east in Yorkshire can be found the next: in third place Kingston upon Hull East, and in fourth Kingston Upon West and Hessle. In fifth is Rotherham, and Doncaster North and Doncaster Central also appear in the top ten.
Strikingly, almost all the most sceptical constituencies are represented by Labour MPs — and Doncaster North’s MP is none other than Ed Miliband, shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change and a decades-long activist for Net Zero and green issues. Meanwhile, Hartlepool returned a Tory MP for the first time in 50 years in 2021.
The constituencies which most strongly disagree, and which are either happy with the amount of emphasis given to green issues or think they deserve more attention, tend to be the more affluent areas in the south. The ‘greenest’ constituency is Chesham and Amersham, located in Buckinghamshire in the south east of England, with 52% disagreement with the statement. Though the top three is rounded out by East Renfrewshire in Scotland and Rushcliffe in the East Midlands, Britain’s most pro-green areas tend to be found in the south of England: Tooting, Henley, Richmond Park, South West Surrey and Mole Valley all appear in this list of ten.
The divide between these opposing sets of constituencies comes into clearer focus when we consider other issues. All ten of the most green-sceptic constituencies in the UK voted convincingly for Brexit, while all ten of the constituencies most in disagreement with our statement voted to remain in the EU. Many of the former list are also among the places in Britain most worried about immigration. The Yorkshire constituencies listed are dramatically less affluent than constituencies like Henley and Richmond Park.
Contrary to the stereotype of young eco-warriors scolding their elders, these results also suggest that a belief in the need for greater environmental action slightly increases with age. Among the 18-24 age bracket, 35% agree that green issues are given too much emphasis, with the same figure for the 25-34 group. This falls to 28% of those aged between 35 and 44, 27% of the 45-54 group, 26% of the 55-64 group, and 27% of over-65s. Overall disagreement rises from 35% among the 18-24 bracket up to 44% among the oldest bracket.
The most striking difference is by party vote. Among those who voted for the Brexit Party in the 2019 general election, 57% agree with the statement — including 37% who strongly agree — compared to 21% who disagree. Plaid Cymru voters form the only other group that tends towards green-scepticism: 37% of Conservative voters agree, but 38% disagree. Meanwhile, Left-of-centre parties are all happy to see the current high emphasis on green issues — even from a Conservative government.
It should come as no surprise that Green Party voters are most in opposition to the statement: 63% disagree, including 40% in strong disagreement. There remains, somewhat paradoxically, one in five Green voters who think the Government spends too much time on environmental issues.
Both the main political parties in the UK are committed to Net Zero in an ambitious timetable. The emphasis on ‘green issues’ is shared across the mainstream. These results confirm that, so far, the population is supportive. But if protests in the rest of Europe are any guide, the pockets of resistance we are seeing in less affluent parts of the country could yet become more widespread.
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