In May 2021 YouGov polled 100 MPs and c.1,700 members of the general public, on behalf of the CBI, in order to understand attitudes towards the UK’s net-zero ambitions. Both audiences were asked the same questions, which enables us to determine how in sync (or otherwise) MPs are with wider public sentiment in the UK.
Agreement on who is responsible for paying to meet net-zero goals
To begin, both audiences were asked which groups have the most responsibility for paying to meet the UK’s net-zero emissions goals.
The topline findings are remarkably similar. MPs are most likely to think that UK business (33%) and the government (also 33%) bear responsibility for footing the bill. Among the general public, 34% say it is businesses’ responsibility, and the same proportion say it is government’s responsibility.
Despite similarities across the two audiences, there are big differences of opinion across party lines on this question: Conservative MPs are most likely to think business bears responsibility (32%), while Labour MPs think it should be the government (50%). There is also a big divide on the question of personal responsibility. While 27% of Conservative MPs think the general public has responsibility for paying to meet the UK’s net-zero goals only two per cent of Labour MPs say the same.
MPs are more bullish than the public about the UK’s ability to reach net-zero by 2050
Similarities between MPs and the public largely end at the question as to which group is responsible for paying to meet net-zero goals, with a gulf in views found in relation to perceptions of the likelihood of the UK reaching net-zero target emissions by 2050.
While more than half of MPs (56%) think it is likely we will meet these goals only one in five (19%) of the public think this will be the case. In fact, two thirds of the public (66%) think it is unlikely that the country will meet these goals.
In addition to the difference between MPs and the public there is also a sizeable gap between Conservative and Labour MPs. Sixty four per cent of those on the government’s benches think the UK will achieve its net-zero target in time. In comparison, 45% of Labour MPs think this will be the case.
Perceptions of the most effective actions to help us achieve net-zero differ markedly
We also find considerable differences of opinion when we ask which government actions would be most effective in helping the UK achieve its net-zero target by 2050.
For MPs, the most effective action overall is investing in new nuclear power plants (37%). In comparison, just 13% of the general public select this action, making it the eighth most popular action out of 11 options. It is also worth noting considerable differences between the two main parties here: 55% of Conservative MPs select this option, compared with only 18% of their Labour counterparts.
Investing in nuclear power is joined at the top of MPs’ wish lists by using grants to help people switch to electric vehicles (36% vs. 23% of the public), developing a hydrogen economy for use in transport, home heating and industry (34% vs. 22% of the public) and working with business to develop carbon capture technology (34% vs. 36% of the public).
For the public, the most effective action overall is planting trees and protecting natural habitats (42% vs. 30 % of MPs). This is followed by working with business, as noted above, and paying for people to upgrade their home energy efficiency (28% vs. 32% of MPs).
While MPs and the general public largely agree on who bears responsibility for footing the bill to pay for the UK’s net-zero ambitions there is little agreement to be found elsewhere on the issue of net-zero. In the first instance, MPs are much more confident about the UK’s ability to meet its net-zero ambitions and their views on the most effective actions to help us get there are largely at odds with the views of the public.
Methodology: YouGov conducted online interviews with a representative sample of 100 Members of Parliament between 13th May and 4th June 2021. Further information about YouGov’s monthly polling of MPs is available here.
YouGov also conducted online interviews with a representative sample of 1,737 GB adults aged 18+ between 12th and 13th May 2021.
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