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Green Recovery 23% More Popular than Climate Action in Public Polling

Canadians are much more likely to support specific green job and recovery measures than they are to back a more general call to address climate change through post-pandemic economic stimulus, according to polling last month by Ipsos Canada that revealed a 23% difference in the response to the two questions.

The difference came to light when campaigners at SumOfUs published polling results that showed 84% public support for a green recovery plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, based on a question commissioned from Ipsos. The responses showed 94% of Generation Z, 91% of Millennials, 93% of 18- to 35-year-olds, 90% of women, 78% of men, 71% of Albertans, and 75% of Prairie respondents supporting or strongly supporting the plan.

The research company’s own, earlier release on a wider, 14-country omnibus poll said 71% of Canadians considered the COVID and climate crises equally important, while 61% agreed pandemic recovery efforts should prioritize climate action.

In the survey of 18,000 Canadians aged 18 or over, which is considered accurate to within ±2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, Ipsos asked: “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following: In the economic recovery after COVID-19, it’s important that government actions prioritize climate change?”

SumOfUs asked: “In the coming months, trillions of dollars will be pledged by governments around the world to recover from the COVID-19 emergency. Which industries the government invests in will shape our economies, our workplaces, our services, and our communities for years to come. Would you support or oppose the Canadian government making the recovery plan a ‘green’ recovery plan, which would prioritize investments in green, sustainable industries?”

The difference, SumOfUs and Ipsos agreed, had a lot to do with the focus of the questions.

“I wasn’t in the minds of those respondents,” SumOfUs Senior Campaigner Amelia Meister told The Mix. But “looking at the language, the omnibus talked fairly generally about climate change, and my best guess is that the specificity of investing in renewable energy for a green recovery gave people a stronger sense of confidence…Investing in green energy is a pretty clear and reasonable idea at this point.”

“The question asked for SumOfUs was about investments in green industries more broadly, while the question asked at a global level was specifically about climate change,” Ipsos Canada Senior Vice President Sébastien Dallaire agreed in an email. “This may lead to lower levels of agreement, simply for the fact that the importance given to fighting climate change is not as consensual among the general population as the need to protect the environment more broadly. When answering the question, there is no doubt that many thought of climate change, but some could also have thought of waste reduction, recycling, new packaging, single-use plastics, etc. In short, someone who may not think the priority should be put in climate change could still agree that green, sustainable industries are the way to go.”

Dallaire said it was unlikely the higher support was driven by the greater level of detail in the SumOfUs question. “It’s more likely that the broader focus on green investments rather than strictly climate change impacted responses.”

Meister said that was an important takeaway for community advocacy around the green recovery and a Green New Deal. “The specific issues can take this massive thing and put into a more digestible form that seems more achievable,” she said.

“It’s wonderful to have this aspirational idea of a green recovery, or a just recovery, or a Green New Deal, and we definitely agree with the principles coming out around those ideas,” she added. But “to make those things happen, it’s going to take a series of really specific steps. So we’re really focused right now on what will get us from Point A to Point B,” like demanding the federal government make good on its 2015 campaign promise to end fossil fuel subsidies and reinvest in renewable energy.

“From my point of view as a campaigner, having a number of really specific action items is going to get support, because it doesn’t feel so unknown to the public,” Meister said. “It gives clarity and stability in this really unstable time of COVID-19.”