Perhaps in response, Australian views of climate change have become less partisan. A new poll my colleagues and I organised of around 1,100 Australians found almost 90% now believe climate change is a problem. That’s an average across the political spectrum, from the Greens to One Nation.
Not only that, but almost 80% of us are optimistic, believing it’s possible for Australia to halve its emissions by 2030.
In a similar poll we undertook before the 2019 election, Australians were far more divided. Then, just 48% of right-leaning voters (those intending to vote for the Liberals, Nationals, One Nation or United Australia parties) thought government policies to address environmental damage and climate change were important compared to 84% of left-leaning voters (those intending to vote for the Greens or ALP).
In our 2022 poll, views converged. Now, similar proportions of left- and right-leaning voters rate highly the need for government action on environmental damage and climate change.
What does that mean for this Saturday’s federal election? I can’t say with any certainty, given other issues are front of mind for many people – including the cost of living, house prices and rising interest rates. But the findings do challenge the pervading belief Australians are split on the need for climate action.
What did we find?
In short, we found concern for the environment is nearly universal. Fully 94% of all voters believe environmental damage is a problem and 89% believe climate change is a problem.
And as for readiness to change or help, that’s high across the spectrum too. We found 84% of people would now choose an electric vehicle if they were cheaper than internal combustion engine equivalents, while 95% report recycling regularly and the same proportion believe people should do their bit for the environment.
Read more: No, Mr Morrison. Minority government need not create ‘chaos’ – it might finally drag Australia to a responsible climate policy
Economic factors still play a role, of course, with motivations for conserving energy more focused on costs than the environment: 82% conserve energy because they are worried about climate change, but 95% conserve energy because they are worried about their bills.
These results come from our polling undertaken over May 10-12 of around 1,100 Australian voters using a representative sample collected by market research company PureProfile. I asked the same questions on environment and climate change, as well as additional questions, as those included in a poll my colleagues and I conducted just before the 2019 election. The answers uncovered strong feelings about environmental issues – from across the political spectrum.
Of course, political preferences still matter. When we asked respondents what government priorities on the environment should be, we saw marked differences.
Overall, the Greens and the ALP – unsurprisingly – ranked highly on policies to address environmental damage, climate change, renewable energy and threatened habitats/endangered species, with little difference in priority between these four issues.
Those intending to vote for an independent candidate showed similar patterns but with a stronger preference for policies on renewable energy and threatened habitats/endangered species, and weaker preferences around climate change policies.
Liberal Party voters were less concerned about all four sets of priorities, and Nationals voters less so again. Overall, the Nationals voters rated policies around energy and the environment least strongly compared to the other groups of voters.
We unearthed interesting differences between voters in favour of newer fringe parties. One Nation voters seem especially keen on policies to address threatened habitats but were the least keen to see more climate change policies, while United Australia Party voters were similar to One Nation, but not nearly so keen on policies to address threatened habitats and endangered species.
When we posed questions about the current government’s record on the environment, we found significant dissatisfaction, especially for those intending to vote for an independent candidate. While those planning to vote Liberal ranked the government record relatively highly, the overall energy and environment report card was poor, with respondents giving the government an average of just under 5/10.
We also asked respondents general questions about environmental and energy policies relevant to any level of government. Interestingly, the leading preference was for more government investment in public transport. This was followed by incentives for green homes, for example via subsidies for insulation, with better regulation of emissions and plastics also ranked highly.
Given the political climate wars raging over the last decade, it’s no surprise a carbon tax was the most unpopular preference.
So what should we take from this poll? Voters have become more concerned about environmental issues broadly, and are willing to do their part.
Read more: How do the major parties rate on climate policies? We asked 5 experts
That’s a promising sign, if the next government can use this groundswell to bring in policies that would substantially accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions, and tackle our many other environmental threats.
In recent years, Australia has gained a reputation for dragging its heels on climate action. This survey shows that there is a real, significant appetite for action across the spectrum of Australian voters.
“We MUST respect this earth - it is all we have
Claudio Dametto - South Australia
“I will always Vote to Preserve Our World.
Liam McGregor - Western Australia
“A simple message that even a politician can understand
Felicity Crombach - Victoria
“Please show you care about our future generations!!
Phil Harmer - New South Wales
“Save our world , Life & health before profits.
Kerry Lillian - New South Wales
“Close down all coal mines and Do not mine gas . Make these Companies
Daniel Johnson - New South Wales
“We want carbon free energy!
Edan Clarke - New South Wales
“Feels good to be taking a voter action step
Beaver Hudson - New South Wales
“Great Initiative. Let’s Hold elected officials Accountable to their bosses, us!
John Paul Posada - New South Wales
“We need actions not words we need honest democratic govt We need a pm
Bob Pearce - South Australia
“Thank you for this great resource. I was feeling helpless. Even this small step
Silvia Anderson - Victoria
“If political parties continue receiving political donations, we will rarely have politicians working for
Dan Chicos - New South Wales
“I only vote for people who will take urgent action to restore a safe
Susie Burke - Victoria
“Current government is not representing the opinion of the majority of Australian to meet
Neil Price - Tasmania
“We are fighting to rescue our kids' future from those who seek to steal
Vanessa Norimi - Queensland
“No time to waste Now or Never My vote is for NOW
Rosalie White - Victoria
“I am only 9 but I already care
Ava Bell - New South Wales
“From New Lambton Uniting Church - Caring for our world is a moral imperative.
Niall McKay - New South Wales
“Our federal govt is an International climate Embarrassment - its about time they stepped
Oriana Tolo - Victoria
“Vote earth this time!
Sue Cooke - Queensland
“We are in one on the wealthiest countries in the world. we have the
rowan huxtable - New South Wales
“The climate Emergency is the public health opportunity and urgent priority of the 21st
Mike Forrester - Victoria
“If they want my vote they better act now
Barbara McNiff - New South Wales
“We need to act locally now for the earth. Our only home. Vote Earth
Anne Miller - New South Wales
“I often look at the places I've known all my life and see how
Jim Baird - New South Wales
“Strike one For people power!!! Democracy might prevail outside the current cronyism that faces
Lorraine Bridger - New South Wales
“Our federal politicians Are Afraid to make action on climate change a major election
Jennifer Martin - New South Wales
“climate election, let's go!
Fahimah Badrulhisham - New South Wales
“Great to see this website that is a focus on action for climate change
Lynette Sinclair - New South Wales
“Let’s show politicians and the Murdoch media that climate change is by far the
Jane Aitken - Australian Capital Territory
“If you want to stay in power You need to take action to stop
Jane Bulter - New South Wales
“We are all that stands between terminal climate change and the vulnerable. We are
Carol Khan - Queensland
“We need a Government that Believes this is real and not taking money from
Ken Gray - New South Wales
“I'm voting for my childrens future
Anneliese Alexander - New South Wales