Just Stop Oil protests might be encouraging more climate action, survey reveals

Date: 28/4/22 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Recent YouGov polling suggests that protests by Just Stop Oil increased the number of people in the UK willing to take climate action. 

 

Three nationally representative surveys (see notes to editors for the full survey and additional results) of over 2,000 adults in the UK were conducted on Tuesday, March 29th, before the major protests against oil infrastructure began, Saturday 9th of April and Tuesday 19th of April. Results show that three weeks after the Just Stop Oil protests began, the number of people who were likely to talk with friends and family about climate change, contact their MP about climate issues and attend a legal protest about climate change had risen by a statistically significant amount.

 

The number of people saying that they were likely to engage in some form of climate action over the next 12 months increased from 8.7% to 11.3% over a 3-week period, equivalent to approximately 1.7 million adults in the UK.

 

Results also showed that 58% of UK adults support the demands of Just Stop Oil, with only 23% against and 19% neutral. Just Stop Oil is demanding that “the government immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.”

 

Polling was commissioned by Social Change Lab, a research organisation focused on understanding the impact of protest and social movements on social change. 

 

Dr Ben Kenward, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University, who assisted with the research, said “We don’t know for sure what caused the increase during this period, but the fact that 63% of the population has now heard about Just Stop Oil suggests it might be a factor. Further, this shows it isn't the case that these protests backfired by causing a large negative reaction in the population."

 

James Ozden, Director of Social Change Lab, said “We’ve heard many people speculating that the disruptive protests utilised by Just Stop Oil were damaging to the climate movement. Our survey results don’t support this, finding no loss in support for key climate policies, and instead, we find that the likelihood of the UK public taking various forms of climate action has increased in the same period.”

 

In contrast to widespread support for Just Stop Oil demands, only 18.1% support Just Stop Oil itself, with 57% being against. When asked about satisfaction with the efforts of the UK government, only 26.1% of UK adults thought the government was doing a lot to tackle climate change, with 46% disagreeing with this statement.

 

The survey also measured to what degree the public agreed that fossil fuels, the target of the Just Stop Oil protests, were a major contributor to climate change. Results showed that after the first week of protests, on Saturday 9th of April, the public’s sentiment on the contribution of fossil fuels towards climate change was up by 2.8 percentage points, from 68% to 70.8% agreement. However, this level was not as high in the final survey, where researchers found no statistically significant changes relative to the first survey. 

 

Public awareness of Just Stop Oil increased from close to zero when they began, to over 63% in just two and a half weeks. Other variables that were measured, such as public concern for climate change, support for Just Stop Oil’s demands, discontent with the government and strength of the pro-fossil fuel sentiment showed no statistically significant shifts when comparing all three surveys.

 

Sam Glover, Research Manager at Social Change Lab said “This survey highlights the importance of research when considering the effectiveness of certain advocacy strategies. We should be basing our claims around the efficacy of certain tactics on evidence and data, rather than emotional reactions.”

Notes to editors

 

For further information, comment or access to raw data, contact James:

Email: james@socialchangelab.org

Number: +447476663297

Website: www.socialchangelab.org

Social Change Lab is a research non-profit focused on understanding the impact of social movements and protest on social change.

Recruitment was completed via online methodology, inviting a nationally representative sample of approximately 2,000 UK adults based on age, gender, social grade, region, 2016 EU Ref and 2019 General Election votes. Weighting was applied to adjust the demographic distribution to a nationally representative sample based on the crossbreaks listed above.

Additional results

Awareness of Just Stop Oil protests:

  • On Saturday 9th of April, 51.5% of the population had heard of Just Stop Oil protests

  • On Tuesday 19th of April, 63.2% of the population had heard of Just Stop Oil protests

  • We didn’t measure the number of people who heard of Just Stop Oil before the protests (March 29th), as it was a new campaign and they had received very little media attention, but we estimate the number is below 10% of the UK population.

Average likelihood to engage in climate action

  • The average number of UK adults who believe they are likely to take part in some climate action (across our 6 metrics in the survey, seen below) increased from from 8.7% to 11.3%, a difference of 2.6  percentage points which equates to an additional 1.7 million people. This was a statistically significant difference with a p-value of 0.015 and outside the margins of errors of this survey.

 

Likelihood to contact your MP about climate change

  • The number of people who believe they are likely to contact their MP about climate-related issues increased from 14.4% of the UK population to 16.9%, a difference of 2.5 percentage points which equates to an additional 1.66 million people. This was a statistically significant difference with a p-value of 0.004 and outside the margins of errors of this survey.

 

Likelihood of talking to your friends and family about climate change

  • The number of people who believe they are likely to talk to their friends or family about climate change increased from 57.0% of the UK population to 59.3%, a difference of 2.3 percentage points which equates to an additional 1.52 million people. This was a statistically significant difference with a p-value of 0.015 and outside the margins of errors of this survey.

 

Likelihood to go to a legal protest

  • The number of people who were likely (somewhat likely, likely, or very likely) to go to a legal climate protest in the next 12 months increased from 10.1% to 11.7% of the UK population, which equates to approximately 1.1 million additional people. This was a statistically significant difference with a p-value of 0.02 and outside the margins of errors of this survey.

Select results from the third wave (19th April)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visualisations of survey data





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full survey with breakdown of various questions:

  • 2 items measuring general attitudes towards climate change 

  • 1 item measuring public perception on the impacts of fossil fuels (focus of Just Stop Oil)

  • 3 items measuring support for demands of Just Stop Oil

  • 1 item measuring public discontent with government action on climate change

  • 2 items measuring strength of pro-fossil fuel sentiment (to measure if there was any negative effect of protest)

  • 6 items about willingness to take action on climate issues (talk to friends and family, engage with your MP, volunteer for an environmental cause, donate, go to a legal protest and take part in nonviolent civil disobedience).

  • 1 item to see if participants aware of the Just Stop Oil protests.

  • 1 item asking whether participants support or oppose the actions of Just Stop Oil.

 

Measuring: Public concern around climate change

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements…

  1. “Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity”

    • Likert scale from 1-7:

      1. Strongly disagree

      2. Disagree

      3. Somewhat disagree

      4. Neither disagree nor agree

      5. Somewhat agree

      6. Agree

      7. Strongly Agree

  2. “I feel frightened at the prospect of climate change and the impact it may have”

    • Likert Scale 1-7

 

Measuring: Public perception on the impacts of fossil fuels

  1. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

Fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) are major contributors to climate change and environmental damage.

  • Likert Scale 1-7​


 

Measuring: Public support of government action to stop fossil fuels (in agreement with demands of Just Stop Oil)

  1. The UK government should stop exploration of oil and other new fossil fuels

    1. Strongly oppose

    2. Oppose

    3. Tend to oppose

    4. Neither support nor oppose

    5. Tend to support

    6. Support

    7. Strongly support

  2. The UK government should no longer grant new licences for oil and gas production

    • Likert scale as above: 1-7 Strongly oppose to strongly support

  3. The UK government should make companies extracting fossil fuels spend their profits on transitioning the UK to a low-carbon economy 

    • Likert scale as above: 1-7 Strongly oppose to strongly support

 

Measuring: Strength of pro-fossil fuel sentiment in the UK, to measure if there is any backfire or negative impact of Just Stop Oil

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

  1. Given the current high fuel prices, it's not appropriate for the UK to reduce extraction of oil and gas.

    • Likert scale: 1-7 strongly disagree to strongly agree

  2. Because of the war in Ukraine we need to maintain our country's own production of oil and gas.

    • Likert scale: 1-7 strongly disagree to strongly agree​

Measuring: Public discontent with government climate policy

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

  1. The government is doing a lot to tackle climate change

    • Likert Scale 1-7​

 

Measuring: Willingness of people to take action on climate issues

  1. How likely or unlikely are you personally to do each of the following within the next 12 months” with the following six items: 

    1. Talk with others about environmental issues (e.g., spouse, partner, parent(s), children, or friends).

    2. Write letters, email, or phone your MP about climate change

    3. Volunteer for an environmental cause

    4. Donate to an environmental cause

    5. Go to a legal protest (e.g. a march)

    6. Participate in peaceful and disruptive civil disobedience (e.g. sit-ins or blocking roads) against corporate or government activities that make climate change worse

      • 1 (Very unlikely) to 7(Very likely).

 

Measuring: Salience and support of protests (only in 2nd and 3rd survey)

  1. How much, if anything, have you heard about the climate protests organised by Just Stop Oil?

    • Likert scale 1-4: A great deal, a fair amount, not very much, nothing at all 

 

In the last week, an organisation called Just Stop Oil has organised protests to raise awareness about the impact of fossil fuels on accelerating climate change. They’ve blocked several roads that lead to oil refineries across the country.

  1. To what extent, if at all, do you support or oppose the protesters’ actions?

    • 7-point Likert scale: Strongly support -> strongly oppose