Huge UK public support for direct action to protect environment – poll

Exclusive: 66% of people back nonviolent action and 75% support solar power being installed on farmland

A large majority of the UK public supports nonviolent direct action to protect the environment, according to an opinion poll. People also strongly backed solar power on farmland and opposed fracking.

The poll indicates the unpopularity of a recent swathe of government policies, with more than twice as many people saying they trusted Labour to protect the environment as said they trusted the Conservatives.

The public order bill going through parliament introduces stiff penalties for protests, such as those by Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion and others described as “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati” by the former home secretary Suella Braverman.

In the poll, 66% of people supported taking nonviolent direct action to protect the UK’s nature, with 34% opposed. Support for such action dropped to 44% among Tory supporters.

Recent direct action has included protesters throwing soup at a Van Gogh painting and blocking the Dartford Crossing.

The government has also proposed banning solar panels on most farmland. But 75% of people, including Conservative supporters, opposed this in the poll. Solar power has long been the most popular energy source in opinion polls.

On Tuesday, the government also begins legislating its “Brexit freedoms bill” that could remove all EU-derived regulations, including 570 environmental protections. Along with proposals to end the plan to use most farm subsidies to protect and improve the environment, the moves have been described as an “attack on nature” by the nation’s largest green groups, which have not ruled out taking direct action.

In the poll, conducted by Omnisis, 68% of people said they most trusted Labour to protect and improve the environment, with 32% backing the Conservatives.

The government aims to resume fracking in the UK, contrary to a manifesto pledge. However, only 34% of people said they would be happy to have a shale gas site in their constituency, while 66% said they would not. Just over half of Conservative supporters – 53% – said they would be happy living near a fracking site.

The government has already received applications for its proposed investment zones, where planning and environmental rules would be relaxed and tax breaks introduced to encourage new building and businesses. This issue split people in the poll fairly evenly, with 47% supporting the relaxation of environmental protections in the investment zones and 53% opposing it.

The poll questioned 1382 people on 20 October and is weighted to a nationally representative population. Omnisis is a member of the British Polling Council.


Damian Carrington Environment editor

The GuardianTramp

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