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Growing support for climate change action among voters, poll finds

Most agree it should be Government’s top priority and they will make personal changes

There is strong support for action on climate change, with more than half of all voters agreeing that it should be the Government’s top priority, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll has found.

A majority of respondents to the poll also say they are willing to make changes in their own lives even if it involves costs and inconvenience to them. They also say that reducing their carbon footprint is a priority.

The findings of the poll contrast with October’s poll, which found strong opposition to some specific climate measures. It shows the public is in favour of the principle of taking action on climate change – offering encouragement to the Government that it can devise actions that will enjoy public support.

A quarter of all voters (25 per cent) strongly agree that they want “tackling climate change” to be the top priority of the Government, while a further 39 per cent say they agree with the statement – a combined “agree” and “strongly agree” figure of 64 per cent.


Voters also say they want the costs of climate action to be 'mostly borne by business and government'

A similar proportion of voters (68 per cent) agree with the statement “I am happy to make changes to tackle climate change even if it involves cost and inconvenience to me”, with 20 per cent of these saying they agree strongly with the statement.

Asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement “Reducing my carbon footprint is a priority for me” 67 per cent agreed, including 21 per cent agreeing strongly.

However, voters also say they want the costs of climate action to be “mostly borne by business and government”, with 28 per cent agreeing strongly and a further 45 per cent agreeing.

Changing attitudes

Forty-six per cent of people agree “it is better if the Government mandates the changes that are needed”, while 45 per cent say “It is better if people take responsibility for changing their own behaviour”.

The poll suggests that people are clearly aware of the problems and threats presented by climate change

The high level of commitment to the principle of climate action – by the Government and in people’s own lives – contrasts with the findings of the previous Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll when respondents were asked their attitudes to a series of practical measures. It found there was significant public resistance to some of the measures that might achieve carbon reduction targets. In particular, it found large majorities opposed higher taxes on fuel and making petrol and diesel cars more expensive, or reducing the size of the national dairy herd.

Today’s poll suggests that the public is convinced of the need for climate action and are willing to back some measures that will affect them personally – even if the previous poll suggested some limits to that.

The poll suggests that people are clearly aware of the problems and threats presented by climate change, that they believe something must be done and they know they will have to play a role. Finding the balance between changing behaviour while steering away from imposing unpopular measures is a challenge for policymakers everywhere.

The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies during December 5th-8th. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times