Recent YouGov polling suggests that disruptive protests by Just Stop Oil increased support for more moderate climate organisations, such as Friends of the Earth.
Two nationally representative surveys (see notes to editors for the full survey and additional results) of 1,415 adults in the UK were conducted on Friday the 4th of November, before the M25 blockades by Just Stop Oil began, and on Monday the 14th of November, after this campaign concluded. Results show that as the public reported hearing more about Just Stop Oil, likely as a result of their M25 blockades, support for and identification with more moderate climate groups increased by a statistically significant amount.
The number of people saying that they support Friends of the Earth increased from 50.3% of the UK population to 52.9%, showing a 2.6 percentage point increase [Note to editor: see photo below in Appendix].
Results also showed that over 92% of UK adults had heard of Just Stop Oil after their campaign had concluded, one of the highest awarenesses of any charitable organisation in the UK (and higher than Greenpeace). This figure was at 87% before the M25 campaign, indicating high pre-existing awareness of Just Stop Oil.
Results also showed that 37% of UK adults support the demands of Just Stop Oil, with 36% against and 26% 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.
James Ozden, Director of Social Change Lab, said “This is one of the first empirical examples of what is known as the radical flank effect - whereby radical tactics can actually increase support for more moderate parts of movement. Despite Just Stop Oil receiving significant negative media coverage for their actions, it may be that they’re playing an important role in building support for more moderate climate organisations amongst the public.”
Dr Markus Ostarek, Director of Research at Social Change Lab, said “Groups that use radical tactics have received a lot of attention lately. Observing a positive radical flank effect in a real protest movement is highly interesting, especially in the context of previous experimental research reporting the same effect in an artificial and controlled setting. This convergence of evidence across research methods strengthens the notion that radical factions can positively influence more moderate factions of the climate movement.”
Support for a range of climate policies, covering no new oil and gas exploration as well as home insulation, also increased from before to after the campaign. However, there was no positive association between an increase in knowledge of Just Stop Oil, and increased support for climate policies. As a result, it’s likely this increase in support for climate policies was due to the COP27 conference happening at the same time, although Social Change Lab says this preliminary analysis cannot yet distinguish this change.
If anything, Social Change Lab notes this campaign had a slightly polarising effect, such that people who were initially less supportive of climate policies moved to support climate policies less, and those initially more supportive, showed increased support for climate policies after the M25 campaign.
Notes to editors
For further information, comment or access to raw data, contact James:
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 1,415 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 cross breaks listed above. See the full list of questions here.
Linear regression analyses indicated that increases in awareness of Just Stop Oil were linked with increases in identification with (estimate=0.14, SE=0.05, t=3.06, p=0.004) and support for Friends of the Earth (estimate=0.09, SE=0.03, t=2.79, p=0.007).
We observed no changes in willingness of the public to take various forms of climate action, both with Just Stop Oil, and Friends of the Earth.