Election: poll of MPs shows ‘at odds’ with voters on UK energy security

MPs also significantly underestimate support for solar and wind farms.

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By George Smeeton


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As politicians start their campaigns for re-election, new polling by YouGov for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has found many MPs [1] are at odds with the British public [2] over how to ensure the UK’s energy security.

After more than two years of high energy bills, the poll found almost two-thirds (62%) of the public believe the best way to achieve energy security is to reduce the use of fossil fuels and instead expand the use of renewable energy. Less than a fifth (19%) of the public believe the solution should be new oil and gas exploration licences.

But less than half of MPs (48%) thought renewables will provide more energy security than fossil fuels and more Conservative MPs (43%) thought the UK would be better to increase its supply of oil and gas instead of renewables (28%).

The poll also found MPs to be out of touch with the public on support for solar and wind farms, as well as which sectors will generate economic growth.

Commenting on the findings, Alasdair Johnstone at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Delays to offshore wind farms mean the UK could miss out on twenty-two times more homegrown electricity than could be generated by gas from new North Sea licences. Renewables can deliver much more energy security for the UK than North Sea gas which is running out. Many MPs appear to be informed more by parts of the Westminster bubble than the facts and are at odds with voters.

“Many MPs are also out of touch with just how popular solar and wind farms are among their constituents, maybe the result of a few shrill voices not representing the silent majority. One area where MPs and the public agree is the importance of reaching net zero emissions with more than two-thirds of voters and politicians backing the target.”

On the economy the public ranked renewable energy and clean technology as the top growth sector, backed by 44% of those polled, followed by AI (39%) and financial services (15%). MPs ranked AI top with 45% of MPs (57% of Conservative MPs) listing it with clean tech second on 43%. CBI Economics analysis has found that the UK’s net zero economy is worth £74bn and grew 9% last year compared to stagnation in the wider economy [3].

Only a quarter (25%) of MPs thought more of their constituents would support rather than oppose a solar farm. Around a half (52%) of Conservative MPs thought more of their constituents would actually oppose than support a solar farm. In reality, around three-quarters (76%) of the public said they would support one in their local area.

Likewise, half (50%) of MPs (and 71% of Conservative MPs) think more of their constituents would oppose an onshore wind farm than support it whereas in fact three-quarters (75%) of the public say they would support a new onshore wind farm in their area. Two thirds of the public also say they would support new pylons to transmit electricity (63%).

The net zero target is supported by both the public and MPs. With more than two-thirds (69%) of the public backing the 2050 target to halt the UK’s climate change emissions. Three-quarters of MPs 76% support the target. However, more Conservative MPs (42%) say it is not essential to reach net zero in order to stop climate change compared to 28% who understand that reaching net zero emissions is essential to preventing climate change from continuing to worsen.

However, both the public and MPs underestimate each other’s support for net zero. On average, the public thought only half of MPs were supportive of net zero.

Previous ECIU analysis has found delays to offshore wind mean UK could miss out on twenty-two times more homegrown electricity than could be generated by gas from new North Sea licences [4].


Notes to editors:

[1] Polling conducted by YouGov of 107 Members of Parliament between 4th to 29th April 2024

[2] Polling conducted by YouGov of 2153 UK adults between 11th to 15th April 2024

[3] https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2024/cbi-economics-uk-net-zero-economy-grows-9-hotspots-in-electoral-battlegrounds

[4] https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2024/year-on-from-governments-energy-security-strategy-uk-less-energy-secure-analysis

For more information or for interview requests:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: +44 (0)7894 571 153, email: george.smeeton@eciu.net