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New polling shows majority of swing voters want Rishi Sunak to do more to grow the green economy

Independent polling by Opinium Research, commissioned by RenewableUK, shows that two-thirds of voters (67%) who supported the Conservatives in the last general election, but currently intend to switch to Labour in the next election, think that the Prime Minister is not doing enough to increase the use of renewable energy in the UK, and 57% of these swing voters say the Government is not investing enough in the green economy or taking sufficient action on climate change. In contrast, only 7% of ‘switching’ voters and 6% of current Conservative voters think the Prime Minister has gone too far in increasing renewable energy use in the UK.

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The majority of ‘switching’ voters (58%) believe that growing the renewable energy sector will have a positive effect on the UK economy overall, while only 11% disagree.

The polling also shows that voters see green industries, such as offshore wind and the manufacture of electric vehicles, as more likely to drive jobs and investment outside London and the south east of England than any of the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s other key growth sectors of digital technology (such as robotics), life sciences (pharmaceuticals) and creative industries (the performing arts). 59% say the sector will provide good jobs in parts of the UK which have been left behind in terms of economic opportunities.

More specific policies which support the development of renewable energy are not only as popular as many of Rishi Sunak’s five pledges, but they are also seen by voters as more achievable and deliverable. Ramping up investment in renewables to make the UK a net energy exporter by 2030 enjoys overwhelming support among all voters (77%) - and this increases to 84% among Conservative supporters, and to 88% among swing voters.

Investment in the expansion of ports and targeted tax cuts to support the development of the offshore wind supply chain enjoy support of 75% and 65% respectively. Putting an end to illegal immigration by small boats is supported by 68% of all voters, and reducing the national debt within the next year and a half is supported by 73%. However, in contrast, all voters also see pro-renewable policies as significantly more achievable and deliverable than the Prime Minister’s five pledges. 

Far more people think that the Chancellor should focus his attention on attracting investment into renewables rather than fossil fuels, with only 8% supporting gas and 7% oil, compared to 42% for wind, rising to 52% among swing voters.

RenewableUK’s Head of Strategic Communications Nathan Bennett said: “Following last week’s by-election, some commentators are suggesting the whole green agenda is unpopular. This polling has shown that to be totally unfounded. There is clear support for renewables and the development of the green economy, as well as the policies which would underpin a green industrial strategy, like the development of our ports and incentives from the Chancellor which would help to grow the offshore wind supply chain.

Voters around the country understand that the growth of the green economy presents the UK with a huge opportunity to drive jobs and investment outside London and the South East, especially into areas which need levelling up like Teesside, Blyth, Grimsby, East Anglia and swathes of ports around Scotland and the Celtic Sea.

“Support isn’t solely driven by the fact renewable energy is the lowest cost way of generating new electricity. The majority of voters thinking of switching from Conservative to Labour at the next election, if you ask them, think the Prime Minister hasn’t gone far enough in tackling climate change and growing the wider green economy.

“There’s more support for green measures than there is for some of the Prime Minister’s five key pledges like stopping the boats. They have the added appeal that voters see green industrial strategy as far more deliverable that the Prime Minister’s pledges”.

The Conservative MP Sir Alok Sharma, who served as the President of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26, said: “This polling is a “wake up and smell the coffee” moment for the siren voices arguing that watering down the Government’s green growth agenda will be a vote winner – it clearly won’t. On the contrary, the Government now needs to speed up delivery of key policies in response to the recent Climate Change Committee report, including on expanding the UK’s renewables sector which will ultimately bring down household bills and improve the UK’s energy security”.

Sam Hall, Director of the Conservative Environment Network, commented: "This polling shows how environmental action like building more renewables can help the Conservatives win back former voters considering voting Labour at the next election. The government has a positive story to tell on renewables, with the world's largest offshore wind farms sitting off Britain's coast. The Prime Minister must champion and build on this record to win voters' trust on green issues. With a majority of key swing voters believing the government hasn't gone fast enough with building renewables, it would be a mistake now to water down key green policies. Instead the Prime Minister should unblock onshore wind in England, accelerate planning decisions for offshore wind and offer tax breaks for green firms to locate supply chains in the UK.” 

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RenewableUK, poll, government, voters, green, economy, swing voters, . UK, renewable energy, offshore, Conservatives, Prime Minister, Labour

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