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GETTING TO ZERO

The Conservative politics of net zero

Vote Blue, Stay Green
James Blagden, Will Tanner
July 29, 2022
The Conservative politics of net zero

If this leadership contest is about who can win an election, then both candidates could do much more to prove their commitment to net zero. Securing the UK’s energy supply through net zero is not just good policy, but good politics too. Most Conservative voters, and an overwhelming share of voters the party needs to win over, want bolder action on net zero, especially through investment in wind.

Will Tanner, Director of Onward

 

The net zero target is critical for holding onto Conservative seats

The next Conservative Leader will struggle to rebuild an election-winning voter coalition without strong leadership on net zero. Both current Conservative voters and possible defectors to the party remain strongly in favour of the target of reaching net zero by 2050

Our new research, using polling from Public First, reveals that voters’ support for net zero remains undimmed despite the Ukraine crisis and the rising cost of living. Net zero remains the 4th most important issue for all voters, and the 5th most important for Conservatives – above crime, housing and Brexit.

This reinforces the findings of previous Onward research which showed that Net Zero scepticism is completely out of touch with public opinion.

A new Conservative leader who ditched or paused the net zero target would face an immediate electoral cost

This would make it harder for the Conservatives to maintain a majority:

  • When asked if the new leader should keep or ditch the net zero target, Conservative voters are a third more likely (51%) to say they should keep it than remove it (34%). Among undecided voters who would consider voting Tory, twice as many want the new leader to keep net zero (51% to 26%).
  • 24% of Conservative voters say they would vote for other parties or none at all if the Conservatives ran on a promise of removing the net zero target. Only a third (31%) of undecided voters who would consider voting Conservative would vote for such a platform. 
  • Conservative voters are 3 times more likely to say the UK should be doing more than other countries to tackle the threat of climate change than say we should do less. Both wavering Conservative voters and undecided voters open to the Conservatives believe Ukraine means we need to move faster in the transition to net zero. 
  • MrP analysis reveals that support for net zero is highest in seats where the Conservatives have smaller majorities. Among the top tenth of Conservative seats for net zero support, the average majority was 13%. But among the top tenth of Tory seats by net zero support, the average majority was 31%.

Conservative voters also overwhelmingly believe that the best way to reduce the cost of living is to boost renewable energy

As opposed to cutting green initiatives, 68% of Conservative voters agree that “moving to having our own renewable energy sources in the UK will bring the cost of energy down”. In addition, 68% of Conservative voters also believe that investing in renewables like wind and solar is the best way to deliver energy security. Increasing investment in wind power generates the greatest electoral dividends, securing the new leader between 317 and 365 seats in the MrP analysis.  

Support for the net zero target is particularly strong when discussing how to reduce reliance on Russian gas

Of those 2019 Conservative voters who have defected to Don’t Know, 36% say they would be more likely to vote Conservative again if they kept net zero as a way of cutting back on Russian gas. In addition, 41% of undecided voters who would consider voting Conservative also say they would be more likely to vote for them in this scenario.

Polling by Public First
Nov 30
9:00-
10:00
Last Few

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