After the email leaking at the University of East Anglia’s climate change unit there were some polls on climate change, but an annoying lack of any questions that were directly comparable to ones asked before the email leak that we could use to see if it had actually changed the public’s view on climate change. I always thought was a particular shame that Populus didn’t re-ask the series of questions on climate change they’d asked for the Times just before the email leak.

Three months down the line the BBC have commissioned Populus to do just that, and it suggests a significant decrease in the proportion of the British public who believe in climate change. In November 83% of respondents thought that “the Earth’s climate is changing and global warming taking place”, with only 15% disagreeing. That has now changed to 75% agreeing and 25% disagreeing.

Amongst those who do believe that climate change is happening, there is increased doubt that it is man made. Overall the proportion of people who think that it is an established scientific fact that climate change is largely man made has dropped from 41% to 26%, the proportion who think it is yet to be proved has grown from 32% to 38%.

Since the November poll we’ve seen not just the UEA email leak, but a reverse in the IPCC’s predictions about ice in the Hymalayas and a very cold winter. The impact of that last one shouldn’t be ignored at the expense of the more obvious stories about climate change scientists – 83% of respondents said they had recalled hearing stories in the news about winter having been the coldest ever, whereas 57% recalled hearing stories about flaws or weaknesses in the science of climate change. Of those 57%, the majority (73%) said this did not change their option, or had strengthened their conviction in the risks of climate change (16%), 11% said it had made them less convinced.

The BBC World Service have a Globescan poll of attitudes towards climate change in 23 different countries. In each country they asked how serious a problem people thought climate change was, and whether people supported action to address it “even if it hurts the economy”. I’m not a great fan of questions asking how serious a problem something is, but it’s still useful to see comparisons between countries.

Comparing the different countries surveyed, the most concerned about climate change were South American countries, the Phillipines and Turkey, where 80% or more of the public thought it was a very serious problem. The countries were the fewest thought it was a serious problem were the two African countries surveyed (Kenya and Nigeria), Pakistan and India, Russia and the USA. In all these countries less than 50% thought it was a very serious problem. In the UK 59% thought it was very serious.

The second question of whether people would support government action to combat climate change had surprisingly little correlation. The Phillipines and Turkey, two of the countries were people were most likely to view climate change as a serious problem, were also two were comparatively few people supported government intervention (only 32% and 49% respectively). The African countries Kenya and Nigeria were some of the least likely to view it as a serious problem, but had some of the highest levels of support for government action (77% and 68%).

52% of US respondents said they supported government action to fight climate change, the lowest of all was Pakistan on only 19%. 70% of UK respondents said they supported government action to fight climate change, the fourth highest. The highest of all was China with 89%, though I suspect that may be a cultural thing. In fact, I suspect a lot of the differences we see here may be down to different political traditions and viewpoints (and probably different attitudes towards answering the questions – there are vast differences in the proportions of don’t knows for example) rather than just attitudes towards climate change.

UPDATE: Note that the BBC compares the changes in the poll since 1998 when Globescan first did it. They have actually done more recent waves in 2006 and 2003 – see the results here. On average the countries that were surveyed in both 2006 and 2009 still show an increase in the perceived seriousness of climate change, but in many Western countries, including the UK, France, Germany and USA, the proportion of people saying climate change in a serious problem has fallen.

UPDATE2: There was also a climate change question in the YouGov Sunday Times poll – 21% of respondents thought that “the planet is warming and human activity is mainly responsible”, 62% thought that the planet was warming and human activity is partly responsible, but there were also other factors. 8% thought that the planet was warming, but it was nothing to do with human activity and 4% thought the planet was not warming at all.


As promised there are two new polls tonight. YouGov for the Sunday Times have topline figures of CON 40%(+1), LAB 27%(-2), LDEM 18%(-1). The second poll is by ICM in the Sunday Telegraph; their topline figures are CON 40%(-2), LAB 29%(nc), LDEM 19%(nc).

So there are no major shifts in either poll, ICM continues the trend of a narrowing in the Conservative lead, while the move in YouGov is in the other direction (in fact, YouGov looks more like a reversion to the mean than anything, prior to their last poll they had shown Labour at 27-28% for four polls in a row).

While it is not statistically significant at all (a move from 39% to 40% from one poll to another really doesn’t mean anything), politically it’s significant that after several polls with the Tories sub-40% and in hung Parliament territory, that both polls have the Conservatives up to 40% again and with a lead that would translate into a majority. It doesn’t necessarily mean much, but it will work against a hung parliament narrative establishing itself.

Some interesting stuff in the other questions in both polls. YouGov asked some questions about whether the Conservatives were seen as the party of the rich, and about potential tax hikes and cuts. On the issue of the Conservative party image 52% agreed with the statement that the Conservatives are still the party of the rich, with 31% disagreeing. It was largely a partisan response though, 90% of Labour supporters thought so, only 14% of Conservative supporters.

On taxation, YouGov continues to find the public opting for public spending cuts over tax hikes (by 52% to 30%). If there are to be tax rises though, putting extra taxes on the very rich remains as popular as ever. Asked whether taxes should be spread evenly across the population, or concentrated on rich people, 66% go for the latter. YouGov also asked about the Conservative proposals to recognise marriage in the tax system, and found the public pretty evenly divided: 48% of repondents supported the idea, 43% disagreed.

ICM meanwhile asked about people’s belief in man made climate change. They found 52% of people thought that climate change was happening and that humans were largely responsible, 39% of people thought that it had not yet been proven that it was man-made, while 7% did not believe the world was warming at all.

This isn’t vastly different from the Populus poll on climate change taken in November, suggesting no vast change in opinion. However, the questions were probably asked in a different way and giving different options, so we cannot be sure. We really need a truly comparable question in order to see whether the recent leak of emails has shifted public opinion on climate change: a question on climate change asked exactly the same way as one before the leak.

ICM have released the figures for a poll they carried out for Greenpeace in 6 West London marginal seats (Battersea, Ealing Central & Acton, Ealing North, Brentford and Isleworth, Hammersmith and Feltham & Heston) about Heathrow expansion which also includes voting intention figures in those seats.

The topline figures in the poll, with changes from the notional figures at the last election (I’m using Rallings & Thrasher, since I’m assuming that’s what ICM used when coming up with weightings), were CON 40%(+8), LAB 41%(-1), LDEM 13%(-8). This represents a swing of 4.5 points from Labour to the Conservatives. At the time the poll was taken, on the 16th and 17th December, ICM’s national poll was showing a swing of 4 points to the Conservatives, so there is no significant difference between the swing here and nationwide, though the changes in the individual party shares of the vote are better for the Conservatives and Labour and worse for the Lib Dems than in national polls.

Asked about their attitude to a 3rd runway at Heathrow 34% of respondents said they were supportive, with 45% opposed. Those opposed also tended to be firmer in their opposition – the supporters were roughly half and half between strong supporters and “tend to support”; three-quarters of those opposed were strongly opposed.

Asked how it would affect their vote at the next general election if Labour went ahead with a third runway, 10% said it would make them more likely to vote Labour, 23% said it would make them less likely to vote Labour. As regular readers will know, not least because I bang on about it whenever anyone asks such a question, I am highly sceptical about questions asked this way. Of the people who say a decision to build a third runway would make them more likely to vote Labour, the overwhelming majority are people who say they would vote Labour already. Of the people who say it would make them less likely to vote Labour, the large majority say they would vote Conservative or Lib Dem tomorrow anyway. Too many people in questions like this are committed voters who are just using it to send a message, not people whose vote is actually up for grabs.

There are new YouGov and BPIX polls in the Sunday papers. Headline voting intentions in YouGov’s poll show the Conservatives on 38% (up one from the last YouGov poll) and Labour on 32% (unchanged from the last poll), the Liberal Democrats are at 16% (down one).

As usual, the Conservative lead increased when respondents are asked a hypothetical question on how they would vote with Gordon Brown as the Labour party leader, with the Conservatives up to 41% and Labour on 31%. Normal voting intentions aren’t given for the BPIX poll, but with Brown named as Labour leader hypothetical voting intentions are CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 14%.

Both surveys show opposition to “green taxation” – increases are viewed cynically, with 63% thinking they merely a way to raise taxes. 60% told YouGov they were opposed to extra taxes on cheap flights, 69% were opposed to more congestion charges, 63% were opposed to higher fuel duties. Measures that meet with support are those which people imagine will effect only other people – so 66% support taxes on larger engined cars, and those which are entirely painless for the respondents themselves, unsurprising 91% support more use of technology to reduce carbon emmissions. There is a plurality in favour of building more nuclear power stations – 42% to 36% against.

In the BPIX poll 66% of people said they expected than an increase in air taxes wouldn’t actually result in a drop in passengers, it would only result in people paying more tax. Only 5% of respondents said they personally would reduce the number of flights they took a year if taxes rose by £10 per flight, and according to the Mail on Sunday, few people told BPIX that higher taxes would stop them flying until extra taxes reached £50 per flight, at which point 48% of people said they would cut down on the number of flights they took.

YouGov also asked about a number of other issues for the Sunday Times – 42% of people favoured renewing Trident, with 37% opposed. 53% of people think British troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Following the Channel 4 documentary critical of the Prince of Wales, 60% of people said they thought Prince Charles was correct in the way he speaks out on issues. However, 42% of people continue to think that the crown should skip a generation and Prince William should become King after the Queen’s death, rather than Charles.