Blogging from the Labour Party Conference in Manchester, Political Climate has picked up on some new polling by YouGov for Policy Network. This survey was aimed at getting the Labour Party to understand how voters see it, but it also has some interesting insights for the politics of climate change.
The findings on floating voters, especially white collar (C1) and skilled manual (C2) workers, describe a contrast with 1992, when this group was aspirant and upwardly mobile. Today, according to the survey, they are worried, prioritising security and a better future for their children. 59% of respondents felt that the next generation would be the same or worse off than them. Only 37% were confident of a good standard of living in retirement. These voters feel insecure and vulnerable. Wages have been stagnant for the last few years, and many have taken on large amounts of debt.
There are important lessons for wider progressive politics here, but also for thinking about climate politics. Floating voters want politicians to focus on their needs, and they want them to demonstrate economic competence. It is riskier than ever to give a central place to an environmental issues like climate change and appear distracted.
An obvious response is to put low-carbon growth to the fore, with the emphasis on jobs and investment (and indeed the coalition government has just claimed 250,000 jobs will be created in a huge housing retrofit programme). However, our own polling evidence shows that the public is not yet convinced about the ‘green jobs’ pitch, and don’t trust politicians on it. This may change over time, but only if a virtuous cycle of real job creation and bolder, job-creating policies can be established. The coalition are talking the talk, but not yet walking it.
As Steve Glynn suggests in his comment, the other response should be to try to make action on climate change part of narrative about a more secure future. But this will require some care; it will be easy to make people feel more insecure, not less, and such a narrative really needs to be credible and convincing.
For our survey findings on the green jobs frame, go the “Writing” page of the website and look at the “Climate of Opinion” document.