Concern for the environment at record highs

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 05, 2019, 11:28 AM GMT+0

It is now seen as the third most pressing issue facing the nation

Today is World Environment Day, and YouGov data reveals that the public is more concerned about the environment than ever before. A quarter (27%) of Britons now cite the environment in their top three issues facing the country, putting it behind only Brexit (67%) and health (32%).

Among young Britons concern is higher still, with fully 45% of 18-24 year olds saying environmental issues are one of the nation’s most pressing concerns, making it their second biggest concern behind Brexit (57%).

The sudden surge in concern is undoubtedly boosted by the publicity raised for the environmental cause by Extinction Rebellion, with the pressure group having staged mass protests in London over the course of April, and activism from Greta Thunberg during the same period. As recently as mid-April the number of people naming the environment as a primary problem facing Britain was down at 17%, meaning it ranked only as the sixth biggest issue.

Nevertheless, even without the intervention of Extinction Rebellion and Thunberg, concern about the environment had clearly been growing since 2017.

The previous record high had been 23% in February 2014, following a period of violent winter storms and flooding. This anxiety did not outlast the poor weather, however, with the number worried about the environment halving within two weeks.

Photo: Getty

See the data for 2016-2019 here and for 2010-2015 here