Seven in ten Britons think the country is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs, prioritising water supply and renewables for investment

People continue to recognise infrastructure’s ‘double dividend’ but see substantial room for improvement according to the latest Ipsos Global Infrastructure Index.

Ipsos |Global views on infrastructure | society | economy
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  • Ben Marshall Public Affairs
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The latest Global Infrastructure Index finds Britons less satisfied with infrastructure than the global average across 31 countries but equally positive as others about most infrastructure sectors.

They are as likely to consider further investment beneficial to the economy and efforts to combat climate change as citizens elsewhere but more likely to think the country is not doing enough to meet its needs.

The survey - carried out in 31 countries by Ipsos in collaboration with the Global Infrastructure Investor Association (GIIA) - is the seventh of its kind, and the first since 2021.

In Britain, satisfaction with infrastructure overall is lower than the global country average - 32% compared to 38% - and dissatisfaction is higher - 33% against 30%. However, levels of satisfaction in Britain are very similar to the average across G7 countries and the European Union.

A third of Britons (33%) are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied or answer don’t know but opinion is more clear-cut in terms of individual infrastructure sectors. Positive ratings range from 68% for airports being very or fairly good, to an equivalent 32% for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

Around half are critical of EV charging - 54% rate this very or fairly poor - with a similar proportion negative about new housing supply (51%) and rail infrastructure (49%).

Ratings of EV charging have improved since 2021. While the proportion who are negative hasn’t changed, positive ratings have increased from 19% two years ago to 32% this year - people have become more opinionated about something more visible and the subject of media attention.

There has been a 23-percentage point increase in negative ratings of water supply and sewerage from 18% in 2019 to 41% this year. However, ratings of digital infrastructure, flood defences and rail infrastructure have improved over the same period. However, rail continues to be below average compared to other countries - Britain is 19th among 31 countries and is in the same position for water supply and sewerage.

As is the case globally, there is strong competition for the top infrastructure investment priorities. Uniquely, wind energy infrastructure features at the top of Britons’ list - chosen by 44% from a list of 14 sectors. Water supply/sewerage (41%) and solar energy (40%) also feature prominently.

Reflecting changes in ratings, the salience of flood defences and EV charging has fallen as a priority for investment while water supply/sewerage has increased. There have also been increases for wind energy and nuclear power generation.

The survey also found:

  • 73% of Britons agree that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy - higher than the global average of 69%.
  • 64% think infrastructure can make an important contribution to combating climate change - higher than the global average of 59%.
  • However, 68% think the country is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs (higher than the global average of 57%), up from 64% in 2021.
  • 44% prioritise the impact on the environment when making decisions about how to improve infrastructure, more than the 29% who put greater weight on economic impacts. This represents a shift towards economic impact (in 2021, 51% prioritised environmental impacts, 21% economic impacts).
  • Britons are less resistant than citizens in other countries to increasing spending on infrastructure even if this means higher taxes or more government borrowing - 38% favour no increases, lower than the global average of 45%, and compared to 36% in Britain in 2021.
  • 70% of Britons don’t think infrastructure in their country has been adapted enough to cope with future changes in the climate - higher than the global average of 61%.
  • 67% of Britons think infrastructure isn’t being built quickly enough - higher than the global average of 60%.
  • However, they don’t want to compromise local engagement; 63% agree that local communities’ views on plans for infrastructure should be heard properly even if it means delays - similar to the global average of 65%.
  • 66% agree that when making decisions about investing in infrastructure in their country, the cost of paying for it should be spread evenly between current and future taxpayers and customers or generations - similar to the global average of 64%.

Ben Marshall - Research Director, Ipsos in the UK, said:

The benefit of a global survey is that it allows us to contextualise public attitudes towards infrastructure in one country by comparing them with those in other countries. Britons rate infrastructure sectors in a similar fashion to people, on average, across the 31 countries surveyed. They are though, comparatively more positive about digital infrastructure and flood defences, but less positive about rail and water supply and sewerage.
There have also been some significant changes over time, likely related to recent media coverage and climate-related events. For example, ratings of flood defences have improved since our last measure in 2019 while those for water have deteriorated. People want to see investment in renewables, now joined by water, as an investment priority.

GIIA Chief Executive Jon Phillips, said:

The message from this new research is clear: the public wants us to move further and faster in delivering infrastructure investment, especially when it comes to attaining net zero.
The proportion of Britons who say this delivery should not be facilitated by new public spending has risen, and this is where international investors can come in: taking pressure off public balance sheets by providing the inward investment needed to help drive economic growth and achieve net zero.
The US has been the standout infrastructure investment destination over the past 12 months. As the Autumn Statement nears, the Treasury must look again at the regulatory reforms and incentives needed to increase the UK’s investor appeal.

About the study

These are the results of a 31-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform and, in India, on its IndiaBus platform, between Friday, May 26 and Friday, June 9, 2023. For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,816 adults aged 18 years and older in India, 18-74 in Canada, Republic of Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Indonesia and Singapore, and 16-74 in all other countries.

The author(s)
  • Ben Marshall Public Affairs

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