Environmental anxiety hits highest level since 1990

Concern about the environment and pollution rises to 21%, the highest score for three decades.

A Ipsos MORI survey, conducted in October, provides an overview of what it calls “the key issues” concerning the UK.

21% of the public mention the environment and pollution as a major issue for Britain – the highest recorded score since July 1990.

This is a six-percentage point rise from September and pushes this topic into fourth place.

This is the latest peak in a long period of growth in concern for this topic, starting from September 2012 when it stood at just 2%.

Our pre-election index shows that while Brexit looks likely to be the biggest issue during the campaign it is far from the only thing troubling the nation’s mind.

While concern about pollution and the environment has risen strongly, concern remains unevenly distributed, the survey found, being focussed among the middle class and those in southern England.

It found almost one third (32%) of those in social grades AB (higher & intermediate managerial, administrative, professional occupations) mention the environment as a concern, as do a quarter of those in social grade C1 (supervisory, clerical & junior managerial, administrative, professional occupations) (24%).

By contrast the figure for those in the C2 (Skilled manual occupations) grade is 14%, and for those in grades DE (semi-skilled & unskilled manual occupations, unemployed and lowest grade occupations) it is 12%.

Concern is highest among those living in southern England (29%), and is lowest in the Midlands at 15%.

Younger Britons are the most concerned (29% for 18-24 year olds), however concern is also high amongst 45 to 54 year olds (26%).

Bexit and the economy

The October 2019 Ipsos MORI Issues Index also confirms that Brexit remains the biggest concern facing Britain in the eyes of the public.

Two thirds of Britons mention Britain’s exit from the EU as a big issue (63%), similar to the September score of 65%, while just over half see it as the single biggest worry (52%).

Fieldwork was carried out while MPs were voting on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal but prior to decision to call a General Election.

Concern about the economy has fallen to levels last measured before the economic crisis of 2007-8. At 12%, the proportion worried about Britain’s economy is half that measured immediately before the 2017 General Election (25%) and at its lowest ebb overall since October 2007.

Nevertheless pessimism about the economy remains high, with 56% thinking the economy will deteriorate in the next 12 months, according to the latest Ipsos MORI Economic Optimism Index.

Mike Clemence, Research Manager at Ipsos MORI, said: “Our pre-election index shows that while Brexit looks likely to be the biggest issue during the campaign it is far from the only thing troubling the nation’s mind.

“Public concern about healthcare and the NHS remains the second biggest issue facing Britain since 2018 Summer, while more than a fifth of the public see crime and the environment as significant worries.

“It also shows how fragmented our worries are. Even on Brexit, there is wide variation. Older people are significantly more likely to list it as a concern compared with younger people, while Lib Dem and Conservative voters are more worried than their Labour counterparts.”

Ipsos MORI’s Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,002 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain.

The answers are spontaneous responses, and participants are not prompted with any answers.

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