Four in ten Brits think climate change should be more of a priority following COVID-19

Latest public opinion research finds the public divided on climate change, and a majority in favour of COVID-19 vaccines for teenagers.
26 August 2021
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Luke Taylor
Luke
Taylor

Head of Opinion Polling, Public Division, UK

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Latest research into British public opinion and voting intentions from Kantar Public finds that people in Britain are divided on whether tackling climate change should be priority following the COVID-19 pandemic. It also finds a majority who approve of vaccines for teenagers, and a dip in the approval rate of government’s handling of the pandemic.

Key findings from Kantar Public research from 19–23 August include:

  • 40% (+1 vs July 2021) of people think that, following the end of the COVID-19 outbreak, actions to address climate change should be more of a priority for governments than before.
  • 37% (-6) think that there should be no change in priority levels of climate change and 14% think it should be less of a priority (+5).
  • 75% approve/strongly approve that COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for 16- and 17-year-olds.
  • Just under six in ten (59%, -1) think everyone should continue to wear face masks in shops and on public transport for a further period of time.
  • 43% say they think the government has handled the pandemic very/fairly well (-6) and 48% think very/fairly poorly (+3). This is the first time since February 2021 that more people are negative than positive about the government’s pandemic handling.
  • 67% are very/fairly concerned that there will be further waves of COVID-19 infections after the summer; 28% are not very/not at all concerned.

Perspective on priority of climate change in Britain

This month’s research finds that “tackling climate change and protecting the environment” remains a polarising issue. When asked to rank 11 policy areas in order of priority, 26% of the public put tackling climate change as one of their top three priorities for improving public life in the UK. But 36% put it as one of their bottom three issues, below policy areas such as healthcare, the economy, education, and unemployment.

When it comes to the cooperation between countries to tackle climate change, over half of Britons rate it as very or fairly poor (56%), whilst 22% say it is very/fairly good.

Attitudes towards COVID-19 and actions to tackle the pandemic

A third of people (33%, -8) think the pace at which the government is adjusting the restrictions to everyday life is much/a bit too fast compared to almost two-fifths (38%, +5) who think it is ‘about right’.

When asked about vaccines:

  • Just under two thirds of people (64%, +2) strongly/tend to support the introduction of a vaccine passport to allow overseas travels into and out of the UK this summer, whilst 23% (no change) oppose the idea.
  • 62% strongly/tend to support COVID-19 vaccinations being made available to 12 to 15-year-olds in the UK, whilst 20% oppose the idea.
  • 35% (-3) rate the cooperation between countries to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as very/fairly good, compared to 42% (-5) who say fairly/very poor. 23% say they ‘don’t know’ (+8).
  • Three quarters of people (72%, -4) say they are very/somewhat satisfied with the vaccine rollout organised by government and health authorities.
  • 44% (-7) think that vaccines should be compulsory for all adults, compared to 44% (+5) who think adults should be allowed to choose.

When it comes to rating the government’s management of the pandemic:

  • 48% (-5) say the government has been very/fairly good at communicating information about the COVID-19 outbreak, whilst 45% (+2) say the government has done very/fairly poorly in this.
  • 38% (-1) think the government are placing too much emphasis on protecting the country’s economy and not enough on protecting people’s health, compared to 20% (+2) who think there is too much emphasis on health. 25% think they have got the balance about right (-2).

Household economic impacts

This month’s research finds that:

  • 18% (-3) of those in work say their job feels safer than it was 12 months ago.
  • Of those working, 21% say their job feels less safe than 12 months ago (nc). 54% say it feels much the same (+8).
  • 6 in 10 (61%, +1) now say that their personal income “has not been impacted” by coronavirus, compared to 56% in March, 54% in February and 49% in January. 
  • Compared to last month, a smaller proportion of Britons say it is harder for them to meet their monthly household budget than it was 12 months ago: 24%, down from 28% in July.
  • Fewer Britons compared to last month think the economy will be doing better in 12 months’ time: 30% (-7).

Voting intentions

  • Con 37% (-7 vs July 2021)
  • Lab 34% (+3)
  • L Dem 14% (+2)
  • Green 5% (+1)
  • SNP 4% (-2)
  • Reform UK (formerly Brexit Party) 2% (+1)
  • UKIP 2% (+2)
  • Plaid Cymru 1% (nc)
  • Other <0.5% (-1)

Methodological information

The survey data and further details on the methodological approach can be found here. A total of 1,094 interviews were conducted online among adults living in Great Britain between the 19 and 23 August 2021. All interviews were conducted online using the Kantar Research Express. The Kantar online access panel was the main sample source.

The data was weighted to match population totals for age, gender, 2019 General Election voting patterns, 2016 EU referendum voting patterns, education, region, and likelihood to vote in the next General Election. Any use of this research must cite Kantar as the source.

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