Majority of young voters would back political party that curbs air pollution, new poll finds

Exclusive: Survey also reveals that nearly half of voters think ministers are not doing enough to tackle poor air quality levels

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 05 July 2018 00:01
EU takes British government to court for illegal and dangerous air pollution levels

More than half of young voters would back a party that makes it their mission to curb toxic air pollution, according to a poll by an influential Tory think tank.

Despite Michael Gove’s efforts to bolster his green credentials through bans on wood burning stoves and other pollutants, nearly half of respondents think ministers are not doing enough to tackle air pollution, an Opinium survey for Bright Blue shows.

The figure rises to 54 per cent among the under-40s, which could spark concern among Tories who are struggling to win over younger voters.

Some 40 per cent of voters would be more likely to support a political party which promised to tackle air pollution, rising to 54 per cent among under 40s

The findings come as a nine-year-old girl’s death from an asthma attack became the first linked to illegally high levels of air pollution.

Ella Kissi-Debrah suffered seizures and was admitted to hospital on multiple occasions in the three years before her death in 2013.

A top asthma expert said there was a “striking association” between the recorded spikes in air pollution near her home in Lewisham and her repeated hospital stays.

Seven out of 10 adults are concerned of the impact of air pollution on their health and others, as the UK has repeatedly breached legal air quality limits in recent months.

The government has also lost several high court battles over its air quality plans, which drew criticism for failing to do enough to tackle diesel cars when they were unveiled in May.

Nearly two-thirds of voters – and 66 per cent of Conservatives – want ministers to act to improve poor air quality, which is thought to contribute to around 40,000 premature deaths a year through heart disease and lung problems.

The majority of people think that ministers were the most responsible for tackling air pollution, while 10 per cent think individuals and heavy industry should lead the charge, and 5 per cent want car companies to take control.

Eamonn Ives, a Bright Blue researcher, said: “The government’s plans for reducing air quality have been widely criticised and deemed inadequate by the High Court.

“The public clearly believe national government should play a bigger role – in fact the biggest role – in introducing measures to reduce air pollution.

“The government should be helping to establish a larger network of low emission zones across England.”

The new clean air strategy laid out its aims to tackle emissions from sources including farming, heavy industry and wood-burning stoves, but omitted road vehicles.

Ministers are also expected to publish a “Road to Zero” strategy, which will set out how diesel and other high-polluting cars are to be phased out by 2040.

Opinium surveyed 4,007 adults between 28 February and 5 March. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults.

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