Ipsos Issues Index: April 2021

Concern about climate change is on the up, whilst half of British public see COVID-19 as one of the biggest issues

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Trends & Foresight
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  • Forty-nine per cent see Covid-19 as one of the biggest issues facing the country, the same level recorded in March. A third (34%) say it is the single biggest issue for Britain
  • Three in ten are worried about the economy (30%), down from over a third in March but still the second-biggest issue
  • Eighteen per cent mention climate change and pollution as a concern, the highest score since the pandemic hit in March 2020

The April 2021 Ipsos Issues Index shows that, over a year into the pandemic, half of the British public see COVID-19 as a big issue for the country. This is the same level of concern as recorded last month, when the Index recorded the first significant drop in concern since the start of the outbreak.

The level of concern about a number of other issues has fallen, including the economy (at 30%, down from 36% last month) the NHS (down from 24% to 19%) and education (falling five points to 11%).

There has been a significant increase in the proportion mentioning climate change and the environment as a worry. Eighteen per cent mention this as an issue, up five percentage points since last month. This is the highest level of environmental concern recorded since the pandemic broke – the previous high score was 25%, reached in February 2020.

Race relations has also risen as a concern. It is mentioned by nine per cent of Britons as a big issue this month, up from five per cent in March.

What do you see as the most/ other important issues facing Britain today?Rising concern about the environment and climate change is being driven by specific demographic subgroups within the wider population:

  • It is a big issue for almost three in ten of those in social grades AB (28%), double the level of concern among social grade C2DE (13%). However concern has risen among all groups since last month, when these scores were 17% and 8% respectively.
  • Labour supporters are twice as likely to mention environmental concerns compared with Conservative party supporters (23% versus 12%)
  • Those living in the south of England and Scotland are more likely to mention these issues than those in the Midlands and north of England

There are no significant differences in environmental concern between Britons of different ages.

Concern about pollution/climate change by subgroupMike Clemence, a researcher at Ipsos, said:

Public worries about COVID-19 remain at the slightly lower level of concern we recorded last month, although it is still seen as the biggest issue facing Britain by far. We have also seen the level of concern about other issues including the NHS, the economy and education falling compared with March.
The environment and climate change is the key rising concern this month, reaching the highest level we’ve seen since the pandemic broke last year.

Technical note 

  • Since May 2020 the Issues Index has been conducted over the phone; lockdown conditions mean face-to-face fieldwork is currently not an option for public opinion polling. Mode effects should be kept in mind when comparing the new data points with previous months.
  • Ipsos's Issues Index is conducted monthly and provides an overview of the key issues concerning the country. Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,012 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. The answers are spontaneous responses, and participants are not prompted with any answers. 
  • Ipsos's telephone omnibus was used for this survey. Interviews were conducted between 9 and 25 April 2021 across Great Britain. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

The author(s)

  • Michael Clemence Trends & Foresight

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