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Onshore wind more popular with Conservative voters than MPs realise, polls show

Two thirds of voters would ‘think less of’ any MP campaigning against new onshore wind farms

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Wednesday 16 November 2022 18:12 GMT
Polling shows that 77 per cent of people say they would support a new onshore wind farm being built in their area
Polling shows that 77 per cent of people say they would support a new onshore wind farm being built in their area (Getty )

Onshore wind power is much more popular with Conservative voters than MPs realise, new polling shows, highlighting the disconnect between communities and politicians when it comes to renewable energy.

According to a series of recent polls conducted by YouGov and Opinium, there is considerable support for new renewable energy infrastructure, but most MPs believe their constituents would not support new onshore wind.

In fact, not only is the reverse true, but the polling shows that any MP campaigning against onshore projects could find themselves facing stiff headwinds at the next election, as 62 per cent of adults say they would "think less of" an MP who campaigned against the development of an onshore wind near them.

This is true of 60 per cent of those who voted Conservative in the 2019 election and 76 per cent of those who voted Labour.

But this message is not reaching Tory MPs, the polling shows, with 61 per cent of Conservative MPs saying they believe that the people who voted for them at the last election have an unfavourable stance towards onshore wind projects.

In fact, the reverse is true with 63 per cent of their voters saying they are favourable to onshore wind.

Overall, 43 per cent of MPs believe people would oppose a new onshore wind farm, and just 19 per cent of MPs say they think more people would support than oppose one.

But in reality, 77 per cent of people say they would support a new onshore wind farm being built in their area.

The analysis of the polling by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), comes amid considerable flip-flopping on onshore wind by successive Conservative governments over recent months.

Last month, just weeks after former prime minister Liz Truss performed a U-turn to ease onerous planning restrictions for onshore wind power projects, new prime minister Rishi Sunak performed another about-turn. That put the Conservative Party back to the same stance it implemented almost a decade ago when David Cameron cut "the green crap" – a move which has added a total of £2.5bn to people’s energy bills since 2014, and effectively banned new onshore wind farms.

In response to the latest polling, Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, described any block on new wind farms which have local support would be "hugely regressive".

He said: "This is further evidence that onshore wind is popular with voters - more so than many realise. Given the urgent need for new energy supplies to bring down bills and achieve energy self-sufficiency, it would be hugely regressive to block new onshore wind farms where communities support them.

"This policy affects not just how voters perceive our record on tackling climate change, but our seriousness on tackling the root causes of high energy prices and the cost of living."

Peter Chalkley, director of the ECIU, said: “There’s a real danger that MPs are hearing a small number of loud voices, but missing out on the silent majority who may not say it, but are turned off an MP by seeing them campaign against a local wind farm.

“At a time when more onshore wind would bring down bills, cut our foreign gas dependence and create growth around the country, the government and MPs will need to ask themselves if they are truly reflecting public opinion on this key issue.”

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