With 1.2 million respondents, the Peoples’ Climate Vote is the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. Using a new and unconventional approach to polling, results span 50 countries1 covering 56% of the world’s population2. Poll questions were distributed through advertisements in mobile game apps in 17 languages, which resulted in a huge, unique, and random sample of people of all genders, ages, and educational backgrounds.
The Peoples’ Climate Vote is a pillar of the Mission 1.5 campaign launched in 2020 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to educate people about climate change solutions
and ask them about the actions that they think governments should take. The aim of the Peoples’ Climate Vote was to connect the public to policymakers – and to provide the latter with reliable information on whether people considered climate change an emergency, and how they would like their countries to respond.
Even though the survey was conducted during the COVID-19 crisis, there was still widespread recognition of climate change as a global emergency in every country surveyed. Over all 50 countries, 64% of people said that climate change was an emergency – presenting a clear and convincing call for decision-makers to step up on ambition.
- Rhe highest level of support was in Small Island Developing States (SIDS, 74%), followed by high-income countries (72%), middle-income countries (62%), then Less Developed Countries (LDCs, 58%).
- Regionally, the proportion of people who said climate change is a global emergency had a high level of support everywhere - in Western Europe and North America (72%), Eastern Europe and Central Asia (65%), Arab States (64%), Latin America and Caribbean (63%), Asia and Pacific (63%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (61%).
- Of the people that said climate change is a global emergency, 59% said that the world should do everything necessary and urgently in response. Meanwhile 20% said we should act slowly, while 10% percent of people thought the world is already doing enough.
Respondents were asked which policies – out of a total of 18 that covered energy, economy, transportation, food and farms, nature, and protecting people from climate impacts – that governments should enact to address the climate emergency.
Four climate policies emerged as the most popular globally:
1. Conservation of forests and land (54% public support);
2. Solar, wind and renewable power (53%);
3. Climate-friendly farming techniques (52%); and
4. Investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%).
Country-by-country analysis provides further insights into the world’s most popular climate policies, for example:
- In countries with high emissions from deforestation and land-use change, there was strong backing for conserving forests and land. Four out of five countries in the survey with the highest emissions from land-use change saw majority support for conserving forests and land, including Brazil (60%), Indonesia (57%) and Argentina (57%).
- Clear calls for renewable energy in higher emitting countries. People backed renewable energy in eight of the ten survey countries with the highest emissions from the electricity/ heating sectors, including the United States (65%), the biggest emitter surveyed, as well as Australia (76%), Canada (73%), Germany (71%), South Africa (69%), Japan (68%), Poland (57%), and Russia (51%).
- Broad support for climate-friendly farming internationally, but mixed results in surveyed countries with the largest agricultural sectors. Climate-friendly farming was the third most popular climate policy overall, including among people in Indonesia (60%), the Philippines (56%), Ecuador (53%), and Egypt (51%), all of which have the largest contributions of the agriculture sector to their economies.
- There is majority support in nearly all G20 countries polled for more investment in green businesses and jobs, led by the United Kingdom (73%), followed by Germany, Australia and Canada (all 68%), South Africa (65%), Italy (64%), Japan (59%), United States (57%), France, (56%), and Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia (all 51%).
- Making companies pay for pollution had high support in seven of twelve high-income countries, led by the United Kingdom (72%) and Canada (69%).
- Nine out of ten of the countries with the most urbanized populations backed clean transport. These include substantial majorities in Chile (58%), Japan (57%), and the United States (56%). Clean transportation was the fifth most popular climate policy overall.
- Infrastructure to protect people from extreme weather events was the seventh most popular climate policy across all countries. Support for early warning systems was at roughly the same level.
- The largest difference in the level of support between two countries for a climate policy in the survey was keeping the ocean and waterways healthy. Support for this policy was 81% in the United Kingdom, compared with 29% in Iraq, a huge difference of 52 percentage points. This highlighted the importance of nation-specific factors – here, being surrounded by water versus almost land-locked – in guiding public opinion on some policies.
- Wasting less food was more popular than wasting less energy. Notably in high-income countries and South Africa (53%), there was a significant majority of support for reducing food waste. Wasting less energy was less popular overall, even though energy efficiency measures are cost-effective and can create green jobs.
- The least-popular policies overall were plant-based diets and affordable insurance. Only 30% of people surveyed supported the promotion of plant-based diets, while public backing for affordable insurance was just 32%. The low scores do not signify that people are against the policies, since not endorsing a policy could also be due to indifference to it. This could be an important opportunity for further education on these topics.
The Peoples’ Climate Vote results were analyzed according to socio-demographic information provided by respondents, including gender, age, and level of education. Analysis of these indicate that:
- The most profound socio-demographic driver of belief in the climate emergency and climate action is a person’s educational background. There were consistently very high levels of demand for climate action among people with post-secondary education in all countries, ranging from LDCs, such as Bhutan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (both 82%), to wealthy countries like France (87%) and Japan (82%).
- While the gender gap was found to be small overall (4%), in some countries the gap was substantial. There was much stronger belief in the climate emergency among women and girls than men and boys (by more than 10 percentage points) in Australia, Canada, and the United States. But it was the other way around in other countries such as Vietnam and Nigeria where men and boys were more receptive to the idea.
- Young people (under 18) are more likely to believe climate change is a global emergency than other age groups, but a substantial majority of older people still agreed with them. Nearly 70% of under-18s said that climate change is a global emergency, compared to 65% of those aged 18-35, 66% aged 36-59 and 58% of those aged over 60.