19 Jul 2023, 13:23
Julian Wettengel

Climate change among EU's most polarising issues – report

Clean Energy Wire

Policies on migration and combating climate change are the most polarising topics for people surveyed in several European countries, a report by the Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy (MIDEM) at the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) shows. On these issues, people show the greatest hostility towards those with opinions differing from their own – known as “affective polarisation”. People on the political left are more polarised than those on the right, and affective polarisation is strongest among supporters of left and environmental parties, said the report, which was first published in April. It is based on a survey with about 20,000 respondents conducted in collaboration with YouGov in autumn 2022 in ten member states of the European Union (Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden).

Respondents were first asked to rank themselves on a scale of 0 to 10 on various socio-political issues, including migration, climate change and the war in Ukraine (for example on climate: “0 - Policies to combat climate change still do not go far enough” and “10 - Political measures to combat climate change already go much too far). They were then asked to locate their feelings toward advocates of a reference statement on each topic on a so-called feeling thermometer, ranging from “-5 cool and negative” to “+5 warm and positive” (on climate, respondents were asked to evaluate two groups of people: those who believe that policies aimed at fighting climate change “do not go far enough” and those who think they “already go much too far”).

Across all issues, respondents in Italy and Greece exhibit Europe’s highest levels of affective polarisation, while those in the Netherlands and Czechia are the least polarised. Older people, those who are highly educated, as well as those with high incomes and residents of large cities, show the greatest amount of polarisation. The survey also shows that on the issue of climate change, a majority across Europe leans toward the view that policies intended to combat climate change “still do not go far enough”. Respondents from Italy, Spain and Greece in particular are in favour of further climate protection measures. The view that existing climate policies “already go much too far” is most prevalent in the Netherlands, Sweden and Czechia, according to the survey.

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