Will this really be the greenest election ever?
Lots of green-leaning people have got excited by an Ipsos-Mori poll saying that over half of the UK’s population will consider climate change when making their vote. Me, I’m not so sure.
Confirmation bias – seeing only the evidence you want to see and ignoring the rest – is a terrible inflater of false hopes. I probably overcompensate the other direction (I won my local election in May comfortably after telling my team in the pub just before the count that I thought I’d fallen just short). So here’s my (pessimistic) view as to why the election will come down to the usual factors.
- When voters are asked to rank a range of issues in level of importance, ‘the environment’ tends to trail Brexit (inevitably) and the NHS by a long way (see here and here).
- When asked ‘will you consider Good Cause X when voting?’, people often feel obliged to say ‘yes’, even if their subconscious (which tends to dominate decision-making) is saying ‘meh’. This is why, when canvassing, election candidates should ask “who will you be voting for?” rather than “can I rely on your vote?” – the latter will over-inflate their support as people feel pressurised into saying ‘yes’ whether they mean it or not.
- Lastly, there’s little sign of a surge in the Green vote – they are averaging just 4% in the polls. Yes, I know, every party except the Brexit Party has signed up to tackling climate change, but you would still expect the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Green Party to be beating the Brexiteers at the very least if climate change really was going to be an election decider.
So my conclusion is that Sustainability is still a second tier issue for the public at large when it comes to voting, or anything else. But fear not, you really don’t have to turn everybody into a tree-hugger to save the planet. You only have to get them to make low carbon choices.
Yes, I know that ‘only’ is loaded, but what I mean is we don’t need to worry about motive. If we can persuade more people to cycle to work to improve their health, say, then that’s a climate win, even if they all happened to be climate change deniers. That’s why I developed Green Jujitsu as a concept – we should work with people on their territory, not ours.