ANU Poll reveals nation worried about climate change

Poll Date: 
Wednesday 29 October 2008

Australians view global warming as the most serious threat to the future well-being of the world and see drought as the most immediate environmental problem for Australia, according to the findings of the third ANU Poll.

However, the poll also shows that fewer are prepared to change their behaviour to protect the environment or to support the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

A large majority of Australians consider themselves well informed about climate change and a small majority support the introduction of an Emissions Trading Scheme.

According to Professor Ian McAllister, who leads ANU Poll, despite the scientific complexities and debates surrounding the whole topic of global warming, a large majority of the public — 77 per cent — feel that they understand the issue ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’.

“Only about one in four feel that they are not well informed,” he said. “When you look at international comparisons, Australians see global warming as a bigger threat to their way of life than does the US public. In a 2008 survey, 40 per cent of US respondents said that global warming posed a ‘serious threat’, compared to 56 per cent of Australians. But levels of support for an emissions trading scheme are similar to the US, with around 54 percent of Australians supporting the scheme and 34 percent opposing it.

“However, when we turned to the issue of nuclear power, Australians are less supportive of it than their US counterparts, a majority of whom support it. Around half of the Australian public opposes the use of nuclear energy. And over the last two decades, public support for nuclear energy has declined, while support for uranium mining has remained relatively stable.”

The poll, which differs from other opinion polls by placing public opinion in a broad policy context and by benchmarking Australia against international opinion, also found that Australians have made more environmental behaviour changes than their counterparts in the United Kingdom.

Professor Ian McAllister said the survey found that the vast majority of Australians have changed their behaviour in small ways to help the environment.

“Only two of the thousand people interviewed for the poll said they didn’t participate in at least one environmental behaviour, such as recycling, conserving water or using energy saving light bulbs. But only 31 percent use public transport. This perhaps isn’t surprising since it is much easier to make small incremental changes,” Professor McAllister said. “Australians have a much higher degree of environmental behaviour that their British counterparts, where according to a 2002 British survey only 58 per cent recycle household rubbish.”

ANU Poll also found that Australians rate the economy and the environment as the two dominant problems facing the country, with the economy slightly ahead. At the time of the first ANU Poll in March 2008, the environment was ranked first, followed by the economy.

This is the third ANU Poll. ANU Poll is a survey of Australian public opinion of matters on matters of national importance. ANU Poll differs from other opinion polls by benchmarking Australia against international opinion.

Updated:  23 November, 2017/Responsible Officer:  College Dean/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications