Australian voters' attitudes to climate action and their social-political determinants

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    Australia is a relative laggard on climate policy, amidst social and political fractures despite rising support for climate policy in opinion polls. In the 2019 Australian federal election, which was dubbed the 'climate election', the opposition campaigned on comparatively ambitious climate action but the government was returned on a status quo policy. We explore the social-political determinants of climate attitudes and how they are positioned in relation to voting behaviour, in the context of the 2019 election. We use a large nationally representative survey of Australian voters (n = 2,033), and employ univariate and multivariate ordinal logistic regression models to uncover correlates. We find that a large majority of voters think it is important for Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the importance given to emissions reductions is sharply divided along lines of political party preference. Holding pro-climate action attitudes consistently correlates with voting for progressive political parties and having higher levels of education. We also find a strong age cohort divide, with younger people holding stronger pro-climate attitudes than older people, raising the question whether we are seeing the emergence of a new generation expressing strong proclimate action and progressive political attitudes that will persist over time. We conduct population ageing scenarios to project changes to public opinion, by age group, into the future. These indicate that strong support for climate action would increase by about four percentage points over the coming decade as younger voters replace the old, if attitudes within cohorts remained fixed. We conclude that while cleavages in climate attitudes in Australia are set to continue, efforts to promote climate delay are bound to have a limited shelf life as a growing majority of voters accepts the need for climate action.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPLOS ONE (Public Library of Science)
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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