Climate change is only a top priority for 8% of voters according to a new poll from Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.
In fact, it’s only a leading concern for 4% of Fianna Fáil voters, with the same percentage of Fine Gael supporters choosing the issue as the most important task facing the government.
When voters were offered a “menu” of possibilities as to what issues should be “top priority” for the next government, a significant majority – some 36% – chose “rebuilding the economy”.
This was followed by ‘protecting Ireland from Covid-19’ at 20%, with housing and health both at 17%. “Tackling climate change” scored 8% support – bottom of the list – as an issue for prioritisation by the government.
Support for climate change action is somewhat higher in Sinn Féin and the smaller parties, with 5% of Labour voters, 8% of Independent voters and 9% of Sinn Féin voters believing it was the top concern.
Only amongst Green voters was climate change a number one priority, at 26%.
It remains unclear as to why voters don’t attach more importance to climate change, especially given the dire warnings from media and NGO sources on the issue in the past two years in particular, and the rise of groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
Cost is certainly a factor.
At the height of the Climate Strike last September, a poll revealed that just 18% of Irish people support the idea of increasing carbon tax in the next Budget.
A Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) poll for The Sunday Times found that almost three-quarters of voters were opposed to an increase in carbon tax to €40 per ton in the October Budget
“Asked if they would support a doubling of the tax on petrol, diesel, coal and briquettes to discourage their use, 72% of respondents said they would not,” the paper reported.
The poll showed that even the majority of Green Party supporters were opposed, with 56% saying they were against the carbon tax hike, and just 33% supporting it.
It seems that despite the declaration of a climate emergency, public opinion has not shifted when it comes to paying the cost of climate concern. Jobs, health and housing are still more important to voters.
Máirín de Barra lives and writes from Dublin