Public perception of climate change in Britain following the winter

Public perceptions of climate change
in Britain following the winter
2013/2014 flooding
A report by the Understanding Risk Research Group, Cardiff University
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Public perceptions of climate change in
Britain following the winter 2013/2014
flooding
Understanding Risk Research Group Working Paper 15-01
Stuart B Capstick (Cardiff University)
Christina C Demski (Cardiff University)
Robert G Sposato (Cardiff University)
Nick F Pidgeon (Cardiff University)
Alexa Spence (University of Nottingham)
Adam Corner (COIN and Cardiff University)
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Acknowledgements
Work in this report was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research
Council (grant ES/M005135/1), the Climate Change Consortium of Wales
(C3W) and the Cardiff Sustainable Places Research Institute.
The authors would like to thank the other team members and members of the
advisory panel for providing insight and discussion particularly at the design
stages including Pete Bailey (Environment Agency), Kalpana Balakrishnam
(Natural Resources Wales), Catherine Butler (Dept. of Geography, Exeter
University), Lucy Corfield (Welsh Government), Dee Cotgrove (Met Office), Nick
Hills (Oxford Flood Alliance), John Holmes (DECC), Nicholas Moiseiwitsch
(Government Office for Science), Virginia Murray (Public Health England),
Shantini Paranjothy (School of Medicine, Cardiff University), Stacy Sharman
(Defra), Guy Shrubsole (Friends of the Earth), and Lorraine Whitmarsh (School
of Psychology, Cardiff University). We would also like to highlight the
thoughtful suggestions by George Marshall (COIN).
We also thank Ipsos MORI for conducting this survey; in particular Tim Silman,
Edward Langley and Matthew Evans. Thank you also to the survey respondents
for providing their views.
The photographs in this report are all used under a Creative Commons licence.
Links to the images used and credits to sources/photographers are provided at
the end of the report.
The report may be cited as:
Capstick, S.B., Demski, C.C., Sposato, R.G., Pidgeon, N.F., Spence, A. and Corner, A. (2015).
Public perceptions of climate change in Britain following the winter 2013/2014 flooding.
Understanding Risk Research Group Working Paper 15-01, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.
General contact details:
Understanding Risk Research Group
School of Psychology
Cardiff, Wales, UK, CF10 3AT
Phone: +44 (0)29 208 74567
Fax: +44 (0)29 208 74858
Web: http://www.understanding-risk.org
Email: [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Copyright © 2015 Cardiff University. All rights reserved.
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Contents
page
Introduction
7
Methodology
9
Section 1 – National sample: Climate change perceptions
14
Section 2 – National sample: Perceptions of the 2013/2014 flooding
28
Section 3 – Characterising the most directly affected sample
33
Section 4 – The experience of flooding and its influence on climate change
perceptions
37
Conclusions and Implications
43
References
46
Appendix 1: Socio-demographic profiles of national sample and most directly
affected sub-sample
49
Appendix 2: Questionnaire and Topline Data
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Introduction
This report considers the role of extreme weather as an influence on public
perceptions of climate change, through a focus on people’s responses to the
series of exceptional flooding events that affected the UK in late 2013 and early
2014. Key indicators are also compared to data obtained over recent years, to
draw conclusions about current trends in public perceptions of climate change.
Climate change now presents a formidable challenge for societies across the
globe. The most recent assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change conclude that the warming of the global climate system is now
considered unequivocal, and will lead to climatic changes unprecedented for
millennia (IPCC, 2014). Climate change is predicted to result in more frequent
and severe extreme weather events around the world, including increased
incidence of storms and flooding in the UK.
In December 2013 and January 2014 an exceptional run of severe winter
storms occurred in the UK carrying with them large amounts of rain. Analysis
by the UK Met Office (2014) describes how Scotland saw the wettest December
since records began; likewise for southern England January 2014 was the
wettest since 1910. The cumulative effect of these storms was the widespread
flooding seen across the UK between December 2013 and February 2014. The
response to this flooding involved all levels of UK government from the Cabinet
Office to local authorities, the environmental and public health agencies,
utilities and emergency services, and the voluntary and private sectors. These
exceptional events also received significant national and international media
exposure. Although it is very difficult to attribute any single set of weather
events to climate change, according to the World Meteorological Organisation,
when combining evidence from around the globe the UK floods were one in a
series of extreme events during 2014 consistent with the models and
predictions of climate science (WMO, 2014).
Research into public engagement with climate change is an area of significant
scientific research in the UK. We know that climate change is seen by most
people as an issue which is important for society to address, but at the same
time is often viewed as temporally, geographically or socially distant from
ordinary people’s everyday lives (Pidgeon, 2012). This has contributed to a
‘psychological distancing’ of people from the climate change issue, and is seen
as one of the reasons for a consequent lack of public engagement (Spence et al.,
2012). Finding ways of reducing psychological distance is a key research and
policy objective, with the influence of extreme weather events on public
perceptions a subject of active current international academic debate (Egan &
Mullin, 2014; Reser et al., 2014). Here it is argued that direct personal
experience of climate-related weather impacts is a way in which the otherwise
distant and abstract nature of climate change can become more salient for
people, with the potential for raising public engagement with both personal and
policy responses. For example, such weather events may act as a strong ‘signal’
or ‘focusing event’ (Renn, 2011; November et al., 2009) whereby future climatic
events are made more imaginable. Also, extreme weather events are often
associated with changed socio-political attention which themselves constitute
important influences on people’s perceptions. In the UK, the 2013/2014 floods
instigated a high-profile political response and prominent media coverage,
including contentious reporting on the attribution of the floods to climate
change (Lewis, 2014). These factors, as well as changed contexts at a local level,
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such as the loss of power to homes in affected areas, are likely to have
contributed to the local salience of climate change both during, and in the
immediate aftermath of, the flooding events.
Past research that has examined potential linkages between extreme weather
experience and people’s beliefs about climate change offers mixed conclusions;
in addition, it has been difficult to establish the direction of causation between
‘experience’ of weather events and climate change perceptions (cf. Howe et al,
2014; Spence et al., 2011; Whitmarsh, 2008; Reser et al., 2014; Taylor et al.,
2014; Capstick et al., 2013; Myers et al., 2012). Accordingly, the events in the
winter of 2013/14, while deeply traumatic for many of those directly involved,
provide a unique scientific opportunity to test various hypotheses about the
relationship between severe weather impacts and public beliefs about climate
change. In particular, these events enable a careful examination to be made as
to whether climate change perceptions are directly affected by flooding
experience.
In May 2014, a research team from Cardiff University and the University of
Nottingham were awarded a grant from the Economic and Social Research
Council (ESRC) to study this issue under its ‘Urgent’ grants scheme. The
research that resulted involved a major survey administered across Britain
during August-October 2014. The broad objective of the research was to
contribute to international scientific debates about the formation of climate
beliefs in the context of extreme weather events.
Within this overarching objective, the current report has the following four
aims:
1. To report any long-term changes in perceptions of climate change
amongst the British public, comparing responses in 2014 to those
obtained from previous nationally representative surveys (see Section 1).
2. To investigate in detail how a nationally representative sample of the
British public interpret the 2013/2014 winter flooding and whether they
attribute this to climate change (see Section 2).
3. To document experiences of the flooding events amongst a sub-sample of
respondents who have been most directly affected (see Section 3).
4. To compare the responses of the most directly affected sub-sample with
those of the nationally representative sample, with a focus upon whether
direct experience of the flooding leads to different views about climate
change (see Section 4).
Using a survey instrument designed by the research team, data was collected by
Ipsos Mori using face-to-face interviews during August, September and October
2014. A core representative British sample (hereafter the national sample:
n=1,002) was collected, and in order to gain a further sample of individuals
who had been directly affected by these events, targeted over-sampling was
conducted in five flood-affected parts of the country; Dawlish, Gloucester to
Tewkesbury, Sunbury to Windsor, Aberystwyth, and Hull (hereafter the flood
affected areas: n=995).
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Methodology
Survey design considerations
Investigating the relationship between extreme weather events and climate
change beliefs is methodologically complex. There is a risk that if people are
first asked about climate change, this may prompt them to provide different
types of responses to subsequent questions about their experience of weather
events than if they have not been prompted in this way. Conversely, if people
are asked first about their experience of weather events, they may be prone to
subsequently give opinions about climate change that are influenced by the
views they have expressed on weather phenomena.
As a result we utilised a carefully constructed questionnaire design, which
enables a distinction to be made between the effect that extreme weather
events might have on climate beliefs, from the opposite situation where prior
beliefs about climate change might influence the interpretation of the
‘experience’ of what people believe to be extreme weather (for discussion of
this point see Spence et al., 2011). Three design features are particularly
important in this respect:

First, the key questions measuring climate change beliefs and
perceptions were placed at the very beginning of the survey, before any
mention of flooding was made. We were careful to ensure also that the
participant recruitment protocol and introduction to the survey did not
mention flooding or related issues. As a result of these considerations,
we are confident that any association between climate change beliefs
and flooding experience was not made salient until after respondents
had provided their own climate change perceptions.

Second, as part of measuring ‘flooding experience’ the survey included
questions that measured the occurrence of more ‘objective’ direct
physical impacts (e.g. property damage from the flooding), in addition
to self-reported perceptions of experience. These more material
measures of flooding experience might be expected to be less prone to
any reasoning biases whereby respondents could recall or refer to
flooding if they are more concerned about climate change. Taken
together with the point above, this aspect of the research design
significantly enhances our ability to ascertain direct experience of the
flooding and its influence on climate change perceptions.

Third, by including the sample from the five flood affected areas, the
study design allows us to focus our attention on households and parts of
the country that were most affected by the 2013/2014 flooding. This in
turn enables a comparison to be made between the perceptions of those
materially affected by the 2013/2014 flooding and the majority in the
national sample who were not directly impacted in their homes or
localities. For the purpose of this report we have chosen to examine
differences in perceptions between those most directly affected by the
2013/2014 flooding (i.e. those who report impacts on property and
who were living in heavily affected localities), compared to the national
sample. The exact definition of direct experience is detailed further in
section 3. A profile of the respondents within each sample can be found
in Appendix 1.
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Questionnaire overview
The questionnaire was designed in conjunction with a project Advisory Panel
which consisted of representatives from government departments and
agencies, academics, NGOs, and other relevant organisations. Several of the
items used in the survey have been applied previously in work by members of
the research team. We have also drawn in several cases on items used in other
research projects (e.g. the PREPARE work by Ipsos MORI, 2013).
The questionnaire is organised into three parts using mostly closed-ended
questions, together with several open-ended questions. The complete
questionnaire is presented in Appendix 2.
The first part of the questionnaire (Appendix 2, Q1-22) measures climate
change perceptions including several key ‘tracker’ items which have been asked
in identical ways in several previous research projects since 2005. These enable
us to examine perceptions of the reality, causes and consequences of climate
change, and to compare these to data obtained previously. Further items in the
first part probe issue importance and personal engagement with climate
change, psychological distance, attitude strength, support for national policies,
private and public sphere actions, and perceived changes to weather and
seasons.
Subsequent survey items (Appendix 2, Q25-42) measure respondents’ flooding
experience in a number of ways including impacts on property, travel, and
services. For the purpose of our comparative analysis we focus in particular on
impacts on a person’s property, as we regard this as one of the more ‘objective’
measures of flooding experience, as well as one of the most impactful ways that
a person can be affected by it.
Respondents’ perceptions of their flooding experience were also measured
using a number of follow-up items: for example they were questioned as to the
effects of the floods on their well-being. Those self-reporting at least some
impact were then asked further follow-up questions that gauged the nature of
these experiences (e.g. their views on their ability to cope, perceptions of social
support, impacts on financial circumstances and health).
Further items (Appendix 2, Q43-49) focused on respondents’ own perceptions
of the 2013/2014 flooding, including appraisal of flood impacts, and attribution
of causation and responsibility. This section also gauged respondents’ views on
the interpretations of the flooding in the media and by other social actors. The
survey finished with questions on perceived personal risk of future flooding,
ability to cope, and willingness to undertake adaption measures to counter
climate change impacts.
We also obtained further data on respondents’ attitudes towards society and
the environment, as well as newspaper readership, education, and sociodemographic variables. These are not reported in detail here but will be utilised
within further in-depth academic analysis of the data.
Data collection and sampling
Sampling and data collection was conducted by the social research company
Ipsos Mori. A pilot of 26 interviews allowed for testing of all fieldwork materials
and procedures, via an experienced pool of household interviewers.
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The fieldwork was conducted as close to the flooding event as possible while
allowing for practical and ethical considerations. Computer Assisted Personal
Interviews (CAPI) were conducted from 28 August to 31 October 2014 by fully
supervised Ipsos MORI interviewers and took 35 minutes on average to
complete. It was ensured that all respondents had been living in the area prior
to February 2014 as the survey was focused on their experiences of the winter
floods.
The study design incorporated a nationally representative sample with 1,002
interviews.
To obtain an additional over-sample of respondents with more direct
experience of the flooding events, we selected five areas that had been more
extensively affected. Approximately 200 respondents were sampled in each of
these areas; see Table 1.
Table 1 Number of respondents in the national
and flood-affected area samples.
Number of
respondents
National Sample
1,002
Flood Affected Areas
Aberystwyth
200
Dawlish
198
Gloucester to Tewkesbury
198
Hull
200
Sunbury to Windsor
199
a) The National Sample (n=1,002)
The Primary Sampling Unit (PSU) for the national survey was the Double
Output Area (OAs). An OA represents the lowest level at which census
information is published, and on which demographic quotas (or targets) can be
set. A Double OA consists of paired OAs within the same local authority that are
the closest geographically, conditional on them being within the same electoral
ward and connected directly by road.1
The national sample data was weighted to match the population of Great
Britain based on Office of National Statistics data. Weights were applied on age,
gender, social grade, working status and tenure by region to reflect the
population of Great Britain as a whole.
b) The Flood-affected areas (n=995)
Five flood-affected areas were chosen to obtain a sample with both a diverse
geographical and physical (e.g. riverine, coastal) experience during the
2013/2014 flooding. These were the City of Hull adjacent to the river Humber,
The Double OAs were stratified by social grade and rurality within region. This stratification
ensured all types of area were fully represented. For each of the selected sample points, quotas
were set on age, gender and working status based on the local population of the Double OA to
ensure the sample was representative, as published in the 2011 Census. Half of all interviews
were completed on weekday evenings (after 5pm) or at weekends.
1
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an area along the River Thames west of London between Sunbury and Windsor,
a region along the River Severn between Tewkesbury and Gloucester, in the
town and region of Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, Wales, and along the coast at
Dawlish in Devon. Collectively these areas represent diverse parts of the
country that were heavily affected by flooding in 2013 and 2014 and with
diverse experiences, including riverine flooding linked to sustained and heavy
rainfall leading to evacuation of homes, loss of power and other forms of
disruption. Coastal and estuary flooding from tidal surges leading to major
disruptions were experienced in two of these areas.
The exact sampling points within each of the five flood-affected areas were
chosen using media reports and the combined knowledge of the flooding by the
Cardiff University research team and Ipsos Mori, in conjunction with input from
the project Advisory Panel. Postcodes with known flooding experience were
used as epicentres and expanded out to ensure that there were sufficient
addresses to support the number of sample points needed to achieve 200
interviews in each area.
The sampling process was similar to that used on the national sample. Double
OAs selected for the national sample were excluded. Selected OAs were
stratified by social grade and rurality. Once the stratification was complete
Double OAs were selected on a random basis, with probability in proportion to
their size. Following the selection of the Double OAs quota targets were again
set using the 2011 Census based on the locality.
Presentation of data
Topline results for the national sample are presented in full in Appendix 2.
Reported results for the national sample (at a sample size of 1,002) are
accurate to within +/- 2 to 3% (95% confidence intervals). Reported results for
the sub-sample of most directly affected respondents (at a sample size of 135)
are accurate within the order of +/- 5 to 8% (95% confidence intervals). A
detailed characterisation of this latter sample is provided in section 3.
Occasionally results as presented do not sum to 100, and this may be due to use
of multiple response categories, the exclusion of ‘don’t know’ answers, or
rounding.
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Box 1: Previous British surveys on public perceptions of climate
change
In parts of Section 1 we compare findings obtained in the present study to previous
surveys. These are described in summary here.
2005 (October and November)
A nationally representative quota sample of 1,491 people aged 15 years and older. Face-to-face
interviews in respondents’ own homes. See Poortinga et al. (2006).
2010 (January to March)
A nationally representative quota sample of 1,822 people aged 15 years and older. Face-to-face
interviews in respondents’ own homes. See Spence et al. (2010).
2011 (March)
A nationally representative sample of 1,007 people aged 16 years and older. Face-to-face
interviews in respondents’ own homes. See Shuckburgh et al. (2012).
2012 (August)
A nationally representative quota sample of 2,441 adults. Online survey. See Demski et al.
(2013).
2013 (March)
A nationally representative quota sample of 961 people aged 15 years and older. Face-to-face
interviews in respondents’ own homes. See Poortinga et al. (2014).
The current survey
2014 (August to October)
A nationally representative quota sample of 1,002 people aged 16 years and older. Face-to-face
interviews in respondents’ own homes. Findings described in this report.
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Section 1
National Sample: Climate
Change Perceptions
(Base n = 1,002)
1
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We begin the report with an overview of key findings concerning climate
change beliefs and attitudes among the British public as a whole. The findings
presented within this section are based on the national sample (n=1,002).
Several of the items we report here have been measured in a consistent manner
over a number of years with other nationally representative samples (see Box
1). This enables us to draw conclusions with some confidence about the ways in
which these have changed or remained steady over time.
Importance of climate change as a national issue
In order to compare the extent to which climate change is seen as an issue of
importance relative to other major national issues, respondents were asked to
state unprompted, and in their own words, what they felt were the three most
important issues facing the UK today2. This question was asked of people at the
very beginning of the survey, without any prior reference being made to the
topic of climate change.
Having provided answers to this question, they were then asked to state what
they considered to be the three most important issues that will face the UK in
the next 20 years3.
Around 1 in 9 people (11%) saw climate change as one of the three most
important issues facing the UK today. This is comparable to the proportions
who referred to crime (14%), education (12%), or who made more generic
reference to environmental problems aside from climate change (9%).
Around one third referred to the economy (33%) or race relations/immigration
(35%) with 1 in 5 mentioning the NHS or health care (20%).
Expanding the time horizon to the next 20 years, a higher proportion of people
(15%) referred to climate change as being one of the three most important
issues facing the UK. This represents a higher proportion than opted for crime
(10%) or education (9%) – though is still lower than those selecting race
relations/immigration (31%), the economy (28%), or the NHS or health care
(19%).
Figures 1 illustrates the importance of climate change relative to other national
issues, based on these two questions4.
Appendix 2 Topline Q1
Appendix 2 Topline Q2
4 We show an illustrative selection of responses here. A more detailed breakdown of the issues
referred to by respondents is provided in Appendix 2.
2
3
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15
15%
consider
climate
change one of
the top three
issues facing
the UK over
the next 20
years
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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climate change
race relations/ immigration
the economy
the NHS/ healthcare
crime
education
environmental problems
0%
5%
% top three issues today
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
% top three issues over next 20 years
Figure 1 Importance of climate change relative to other national issues
Proportions are of survey respondents referring to issues as being
among the ‘top three’ facing the UK today and in 20 years time.
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40%
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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Levels of public concern about climate change
Survey respondents were asked how concerned (if at all) they were about
climate change5. This is one of the most frequently used methods of gauging the
extent to which climate change is seen as an issue of relevance to people on a
more personal level.
Around two thirds (68%)6 of the national sample stated they were fairly or very
concerned about climate change. As shown by Figure 2 this represents an
increase in overall levels of concern compared to the most recent figures from
2013 obtained by Poortinga et al. (2014). Overall however, this most recent
indicator of personal concern rests in the midrange of values obtained since
2005. In addition, the highest category of concern (very concerned) appears to
have declined somewhat in recent years7.
90%
80%
70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
Figure 2 Concern about climate change
Proportions are of survey respondents stating they are very or fairly
concerned about climate change. Note that data points are assigned
on the x-axis according to the time point during the year that
surveys were carried out. For this reason, they are located at
different positions between year markers.
Appendix 2 Topline Q4
Note that the rounded figures given for fairly and very concerned in Appendix 2 do not sum to
68%. Summing raw data however results in this proportion. This applies in other instances in the
report also for combined category findings.
7 In 2005, 44% of people stated they were very concerned about climate change. This declined to
28% in 2010. In the present survey, only 18% of people stated they were very concerned about
climate change.
5
6
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Beliefs about the reality and human causation of climate change
There has been substantial attention paid in recent years regarding the extent
to which the public accepts the basic reality of climate change, and the extent to
which people acknowledge that climate change is (in part) anthropogenic.
During the last 5-10 years, in particular, there has been evidence that public
recognition of these aspects has declined (Poortinga et al., 2014; Shuckburgh et
al., 2012) though it should be noted that the changes observed occurred from
previously high levels obtained in the mid-2000’s.
The present survey examined whether respondents acknowledge the existence
of climate change by asking them to state whether or not they think the world’s
climate is changing8. Close to 9 in 10 people (88%) responded in the affirmative
to this question, while only 6% answered that they did not think the climate is
changing. The proportion of people acknowledging the basic reality of climate
change is higher than that observed for some years, and close to the previously
observed maximum figure of 91% from 2005 (Figure 3).
100%
90%
80%
70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
yes
Figure 3
8
no
don't know
Belief in the existence of climate change
Responses to the question “As far as you know, do you think the
world’s climate is changing, or not?”. Note that data points are
assigned on the x-axis according to the time point during the year
that surveys were carried out. For this reason, they are located at
different positions between year markers.
Appendix 2 Topline Q5
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88%
are of the
opinion that
the world’s
climate is
changing
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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60%
50%
Partly caused by natural
processes, partly human
activity
40%
Caused by human
activity mainly/entirely
30%
20%
Caused by natural
processes
mainly/entirely
10%
0%
2010
Figure 4
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
Belief about causation of climate change
Responses to survey item addressing attitudes towards
‘natural’ and ‘human’ causation of climate change. Note that data
points are assigned on the x-axis according to the time point during
the year that surveys were carried out. For this reason, they are
located at different positions between year markers. This tracker
item was not included in the 2005 survey.
Survey respondents were also asked the extent to which they believed climate
was caused by natural processes or human activity9. Close to half of survey
respondents (48%) were of the view that climate change is partly caused by
natural processes and partly caused by human activity. Just over a third (37%) of
the sample were of the opinion that climate change is mainly or entirely caused
by human activity. A considerably smaller percentage of 12% thought that
climate change is mainly or entirely caused by natural processes10. Outright
disbelief in climate change (there is no such thing as climate change) appears to
be very limited, with only 1% of respondents being of this view11.
Appendix 2 Topline Q6
29% opted for the category ‘mainly caused by human activity’ and 7% ‘entirely caused by
human activity’. 9% stated that climate change is ‘mainly caused by natural processes’ and 4%
that it is ‘entirely caused by natural processes’.
11 Where respondents are asked “As far as you know, do you think the world’s climate is changing,
or not” the proportion of respondents answering no is 6%. Where we ask separately about
respondents’ perceptions of the natural or human causation of climate change, and provide the
response option to state there is no such thing as climate change, the proportion of respondents
selecting this latter category is 1%. We attribute these two apparently divergent findings to
differences in wording of these two items, and/or that the majority of the 6% who state that the
climate is not changing are more willing to acknowledge it as a reality when provided the option
to ascribe it to natural processes.
9
10
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As shown in Figure 4, the present survey – out of five comparable studies that
have employed this measure since 2010 – has found the highest percentage of
individuals who attribute climate change to human causes, and the lowest
percentage of people attributing climate change to natural causes.
Perceived risks and proximity of climate change
Several further survey items were used to ascertain respondents’ perspectives
on the perceived risks from climate change.
Respondents were asked to judge how serious a threat they think climate
change is to themselves and their families, the UK as a whole and developing
countries12. Climate change was perceived by a majority (61%) of survey
respondents to be a very or extremely serious threat for developing countries.
Just over a third (35%) felt it to represent this level of threat for the UK as a
whole, but fewer than 1 in 5 survey respondents (18%) considered climate
change to be a very or extremely serious threat to themselves or their family.
This finding is in line with previous psychological research which has suggested
that people perceive a range of environmental problems to be more serious the
further away they are geographically (García-Mira et al., 2005).
A majority of survey respondents (55%) were of the view that the UK is already
feeling the effects of climate change13. A further 23% considered that the UK
would start feeling the effects of climate change within the next 10-25 years.
Only 2% of people felt the UK would never experience the effects of climate
change.
Furthermore, over three-quarters (78%) of survey respondents agreed with the
separate statement “It is clear to me that climate change is really happening”14.
Where asked to provide a viewpoint on whether one’s own local area is more
likely to be affected by climate change than most other parts of Britain, a
majority (60%) disagreed, with only 15% considering this to be the case15.
However, a substantial number of respondents (76%) stated that they had
personally noticed signs of climate change during their lifetime16. When asked
to expand on what these were, frequently mentioned responses included
reference to changing weather patterns or extreme weather (39%); heavy
rainfall, floods, or rising river levels (27%); changes to seasons (20%); and
hot/dry weather, droughts, or rising temperatures (14%)17.
Appendix 2 Topline Q7
Appendix 2 Topline Q8
14 Appendix 2 Topline Q11
15 Appendix 2 Topline Q14
16 Appendix 2 Topline Q17
17 Appendix 2 Topline Q18
12
13
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20
76%
state they
have
noticed
signs of
climate
change in
their
lifetime
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Relevance of climate change to everyday life
Further survey items were used to assess the relative importance of climate
change in people’s everyday lives.
Around 2 in 5 survey respondents (39%) stated that they discuss climate
change with family and friends at least sometimes18, though for most people
climate change was not something that arose in discussion particularly often19.
Less than a fifth of survey respondents (17%) never discussed the subject with
family and friends.
A higher proportion of respondents reported that they read and think about
climate change20. Nearly half the respondents (46%) stated that they read and
think about climate change at least sometimes. Only around 1 in 10 people
(12%) stated that they never read or think about climate change. These results
are perhaps surprising, in light of arguments which have been advanced that
climate change is something that people very rarely discuss or think about
(Marshall, 2014a,b; Corner, 2013). Although our results do not suggest that
climate change is a topic which is very widely discussed, it does nevertheless
appear to be raised by some people in conversation, and to be an issue to which
people are attentive to some extent.
Most survey respondents, nevertheless, do not report climate change to be
something they personally worry about on a regular basis. Approaching twothirds of the sample (61%) disagreed with the survey item “I worry about
climate change on a day-to-day basis”, with only 18% being in agreement21.
18
Appendix 2 Topline Q10
Across the sample, 6% stated that climate change was something that they very often discussed
with family and friends; 33% that it was a topic they sometimes discussed; 17% responded not
very often, 13% rarely, 14% hardly ever, and 17% never.
20 Appendix 2 Topline Q10
21 Appendix 2 Topline Q11
19
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Acting on climate change
The survey assessed people’s willingness to undertake a range of personal
action on climate change22. Overall there was wide variability in the types of
action people state they were willing to undertake in the future. As an example,
around half the respondents stated they would be willing to make significant
changes to their lifestyle (52%) and to pay more for some goods and services
(49%) in order to help address climate change23.
Survey respondents were also asked about their support for three broad policy
areas24. Perhaps not surprisingly, the two policy options that implied direct
monetary costs to the individual were relatively unpopular compared to
personal action on climate change – these were nevertheless supported by as
many people as opposed them. Tax increases to pay for more renewable energy
were supported by 40% of respondents (39% opposed, with 18% neither
support nor oppose). Just under a half (46%) indicated they would support
road pricing schemes – this was framed as “Road pricing schemes to reduce
traffic in town and city centres” – with 34% opposing and 18% neither support
nor oppose.
Perhaps most notably, in terms of support for wider scale political action,
around three-quarters (74%) of people supported the UK signing up to
international agreements to limit carbon emissions, with only 7% opposing this
measure.
Appendix 2 Topline Q13-14
By contrast, 20% stated they would be unwilling to make significant changes to their lifestyles;
29% said they would be unwilling to pay more for some goods and services.
24 Appendix 2 Topline Q12
22
23
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22
74%
support
7% oppose
the UK signing
up to
international
agreements
on climate
change
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Self-reported change in level of concern about climate change
Respondents were questioned as to whether their own attitudes about climate
change have changed over time25. We asked survey respondents to indicate
whether they felt they had become more or less concerned about climate
change over the previous 12 months. The majority of survey respondents
(69%) stated that their level of concern had remained about the same. Among
those who reported changed attitudes, a higher proportion stated that they had
become more concerned (26%) than had become less concerned (4%).
To provide further context, we asked those whose views had changed (n=264)
to comment on the reasons for this26. By far the most common responses
among those who had become more concerned referred to directly observable
weather phenomena, these being changes to weather patterns or extreme
weather events (25%), and reference to flooding and/or heavy rain (26%).
This result hints at the importance of flooding and other extreme events in
shaping climate change perceptions.
Only around 1 in 20 people (6%) referred to rising temperatures or hot/dry
weather as a reason for increasing concern. Although 13% referred to media
reports (including television, newspapers, and internet) as a reason for
increasing concern, less than 1% referred to scientific evidence or reports.
Figure 5 provides an overview of the more commonly cited reasons for
growing concern, as well as a selection of less common reasons (for a more
detailed breakdown see Appendix 2 Q16).
25
26
Appendix 2 Topline Q15
Appendix 2 Topline Q16
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23
26%
attribute
increased
personal
concern to
flooding or
heavy rain
<1%
attribute
increased
concern to
scientific
evidence
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
floods, heavy rain, rising river levels
extreme weather, changes in weather
patterns
media reports
no action is being taken, political
indifference
hot/ dry weather, rising temperatures,
droughts
education (e.g. at school, university)
greater awareness
ice caps/ glaciers etc. melting
winters colder/ more severe
effects visible globally
changing seasons
scientific reports/ evidence
0%
Figure 5
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
Explanations for changing personal concern
Reasons most commonly cited in response to why respondents
had become more concerned about climate change in the last 12
months (n=264).
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30%
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Attitudes towards impacts of climate change and climate adaptation
Research and policy regarding climate change adaptation is growing
increasingly relevant as it becomes clear that some impacts of climate change
are occurring now, and are inevitable in the future (IPCC, 2014). There is
however little research examining the British public’s attitudes in this area
(though see Ipsos MORI, 2013 for recent work in this area).
As such, the survey included several items designed to explore people’s
attitudes towards present and future climate change impacts, as well as ways of
responding to these. Respondents were asked for their perspective on whether
certain weather phenomena have become more or less frequent (or stayed the
same) during their lifetime27.
The weather phenomenon that was thought to have become more frequent by
the largest proportion of respondents was flooding: 85% felt this had become
either a lot more frequent, or a little more frequent. Close to two-thirds of
respondents (64%) felt that severe storms had become more frequent. Just
under a half (47%) of respondents felt the frequency of heatwaves had
increased. A slightly lower proportion (43%) was of the view that dry periods
without rain have become more frequent.
Respondents were also asked to indicate how likely they felt it was that these
same weather phenomena would become more frequent over the next 20
years28. In large part, the responses to this item mirrored people’s perceptions
of changed frequency of weather phenomena in the past. For example, around a
fifth of respondents (22%) considered it virtually certain that flooding would
become more frequent over the next 20 years, with a further 61% viewing this
as either very likely or fairly likely29.
The survey also elicited people’s perceptions of the likelihood of various knockon climate change impacts that may affect the UK over the next 20 years30. Of
these impacts, four were framed as risks, with one potentially beneficial
outcome also proposed. For the most part, respondents were of the view that
potentially harmful consequences of climate change were likely to occur in the
UK over the next 20 years. For example, a large majority of respondents (83%)
were of the view that the UK would likely experience “major increases in food
prices, as a result of extreme weather affecting harvests” over the next 20 years.
A similar proportion (83%) also saw it as likely that the UK would see more
homes than usual being flooded as a result of heavy rainfall.
These findings are summarised in Figure 6, showing proportions of people
judging the likelihood of future climate-related events with different degrees of
certainty.
Appendix 2 Topline Q19. For these items, a direct link was not made with climate change,
although this may have been implied as these items followed the earlier sections on climate
change perceptions described above.
28 Appendix 2 Topline Q20
29 Only 3% of respondents felt it unlikely that flooding would become more frequent. Around
10% felt that it is about as likely as not.
30 Appendix 2 Topline Q21
27
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
increase in food prices
virtually certain, or
very/fairly likely
more homes flooded
about as likely as not
health risks from
heatwaves
exceptionally unlikely, or
very/fairly unlikely
serious water shortages
fewer vulnerable people
dying in cold
0%
Figure 6
50%
100%
Perceived likelihood of future climate-related events
Numbers do not add up to 100 because of additional ‘don’t
know’ responses.
Finally, this section also included questions on views concerning people’s
attitudes towards climate change adaptation at the personal level31. Overall,
only a minority of respondents reported having already done or definitely
intending to engage in these actions.
Of three options presented for personal adaptation, the action that had most
frequently been undertaken was the installation of a water re-use system (16%
reported having done this, with a further 24% stating they would definitely
consider doing so, or were intending to do so). Only a small proportion of
people (4%) indicated that they had already sought advice on how to cope with
heatwaves and water shortages, although a further 19% stated they would
definitely consider doing this, or were intending to do so. Likewise, only 6% of
respondents indicated they had already found out about how to avoid health
problems during heat waves, although a further 23% stated that they were
either intending to do so, or would definitely consider doing so.
31
Appendix 2 Topline Q49
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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Section 1 conclusions: Climate change perceptions of the British public







When asked to name the top three issues facing the UK over the next 20
years, the British public spontaneously referred to climate change
more frequently than they did crime and education.
Public acceptance of the reality and human component to climate
change have returned to some of the highest levels observed. Very few
people do not accept that climate change is happening.
Overall levels of concern about climate change have remained largely
constant over the past five years, although the proportion who report
being very concerned has reduced markedly since 2005.
Around a third of survey respondents see climate change as a serious
threat to the UK, though fewer than 1 in 5 consider it to be a particularly
serious threat to themselves or their family.
A large majority say they have personally noticed signs of climate
change, including extreme weather and flooding.
Among those who say their own level of concern has changed over the
past year, the primary reasons given relate to perceptions of observable
weather phenomena, including floods and heavy rain.
Ten times as many people support the UK signing up to international
agreements on climate change as oppose this.
Summary and implications of findings
There has been a clear trend towards growing acceptance of the reality and human
causation of climate change. This recognition of the physical realities of climate change
is also reflected in people’s attitudes towards political responses: a large majority
support the UK’s involvement in international action on climate change. On a more
personal level, most people believe that they have encountered signs of a changing
climate, mostly referring to the experience of particular weather phenomena. This is
also the most salient factor underlying people’s accounts of their own changing concern
about climate change in the past 12 months.
These findings strongly suggest that levels of climate change scepticism in the UK are
very limited overall and, furthermore, appear to be in decline. Although less prominent
in the public mind than issues such as the economy and immigration, climate change has
established itself on the agenda of the general public.
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Section 2
National Sample: Perceptions of
the 2013/2014 flooding
(Base n = 1,002)
2
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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Here we report findings on the British public’s perceptions of the 2013/2014
winter floods, and whether they perceived links between the floods and climate
change.
Beliefs about the severity of the flooding
Around three-quarters of respondents (75%) agreed that the floods which
occurred in 2013/2014 were some of the worst events to have happened to the
UK in recent years32. An equivalent proportion (75%) disagreed with a separate
item proposing that the seriousness of the floods was exaggerated33.
Responses to further survey items also appear to characterise the floods as
events which caused surprise, and for which the country was unprepared34. Just
over half the respondents (55%) agreed that the extent of the flooding was
completely unexpected (26% disagreed), while a substantial majority (82%)
thought that the UK was not prepared for the magnitude of the floods.
A less clear picture presented itself when respondents were asked whether
they agreed that affected regions around the UK coped well with the impacts of
the flooding (36% agreed, while 38% disagreed)35.
Perceived links between the flooding and climate change
A series of five questions investigated respondents’ views on which factors had
contributed to the flooding and its consequences (Figure 7)36.
Insufficient investment in flood defences was considered by three-quarters
(77%) of respondents to have contributed a fair amount or a great deal to the
flooding. A similar proportion felt that poor river and coastal management was
to blame (75%). Just under three-quarters (73%) were of the view that
development including house building in flood-prone areas played a part.
A small majority (61%) of respondents indicated that they felt that climate
change had contributed to the flooding by a fair amount or a great deal.
Lack of preparation by households and businesses was judged to have
contributed at least a fair amount to the floods and their impacts, by just under
half of the respondents (46%).
Appendix 2 Topline Q43
Appendix 2 Topline Q43
34 Appendix 2 Topline Q43
35 Appendix 2 Topline Q43
36 Appendix 2 Topline Q44
32
33
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75%
agree the
floods were
some of the
worst events
to have
happened to
the UK in
recent years
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Lack of preparation by households and
businesses
Climate change
Development including house building in
flood-prone areas
Poor river and coastal management
Insufficient investment in flood defences
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
A fair amount
Figure 7
A great deal
Perceptions of factors affecting the floods and their impact
Proportions show the extent to which people thought various
factors had contributed to the 2013/2014 floods.
Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with a further
series of statements connecting the floods to climate change37. Close to twothirds (64%) of respondents agreed that the floods were caused in part by
climate change (12% disagreed). Accordingly, almost half the respondents
(47%) disagreed with the statement “There was no clear cause of the floods,
they were just freak weather events” (30% agreed).
A majority of respondents likewise indicated that they thought of the floods as
current instances of climate change: two thirds of respondents were of the view
that the floods were a sign that the impacts of climate change are happening
now (66% agree vs. 12% disagree). An even clearer majority (72%) agreed
with the statement “The floods showed us what we can expect in the future
from climate change”, with only 10% expressing disagreement.
Despite a personal willingness among many respondents to make linkages
between climate change and the flooding, a greater degree of caution was
expressed regarding the technical or scientific attribution of the floods to
climate change. A greater proportion of respondents agreed that it is impossible
to link a single event like a flood to climate change (45%) than disagreed with
this premise (33%). Likewise, more respondents were of the opinion that
scientists don’t know enough to be able to link the floods to climate change
(36% agreed) than disagreed with this premise (28%).
37
Appendix 2 Topline Q45
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30
72%
agree that the
floods showed
us what we
can expect in
the future
from climate
change
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Portrayals of the links between climate change and flooding
Further survey items examined whether respondents felt that others had made
linkages between flooding and climate change38. A greater proportion of
respondents felt that most media reports at the time linked the floods to
climate change than did not (52% agreed vs. 14% disagreed). Likewise, a
majority of respondents (56% agreed vs. 7% disagreed) were of the view that
some politicians at the time linked the floods to climate change.
Just over half the respondents (54%) felt that people they know thought the
floods were caused in part by climate change; only 13% disagreed with this
proposition. A majority of respondents disagreed with the proposition “most of
the things I heard about the flooding had nothing to do with climate change”
(41% disagreed vs. 25% agreed).
Data from the survey indicate that the floods were a subject that respondents
were attentive to at the time these were occurring. Over two-thirds (70%)
disagreed with a survey item suggesting that they did not pay much attention to
news reports on the floods, with only 17% in agreement.
There is little opposition to the notion of discussing climate change at the time
flooding is occurring. Around 1 in 5 people (18%) agreed that it was
inappropriate to discuss climate change at a time when people are being
affected by flooding, but a majority (60%) disagreed with this proposition.
Perceived responsibility for protecting against flooding
Respondents clearly emphasised the responsibility of government to protect
properties against flooding39: 71% agreed that government has the main
responsibility, versus only 12% who disagreed.
Despite this, just under a half (46%) agreed that individuals “should be the ones
to take responsibility to protect their homes from flooding”, although a further
31% disagreed with this proposition. Likewise, a small majority (54%) were of
the view that communities are best placed to take responsibility to protect
people from flooding, with 21% disagreeing.
Further questions were also included that asked respondents how likely they
are to perform certain flood adaptation actions, or if they had actually already
done so40.
The most frequently mentioned measure was obtaining insurance cover for
flooding, with 26% indicating they had already done so. All other measures
presented (e.g. signing up for flood warnings, buying flood protection products)
were considerably less popular. For all the other proposed measures the
national sample tended to think that they were either not relevant or that they
were unlikely to perform these (for a further breakdown of these findings, see
Appendix 2 Q49).
Appendix 2 Topline Q45
Appendix 2 Topline Q48
40 Appendix 2 Topline Q49
38
39
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Section 2 conclusions: Perceptions of the flooding among the British public





The 2013/2014 floods were felt to be major, unexpected events, for
which the UK was unprepared.
A majority of the public view the floods as having been caused in part by
climate change, though this is in concert with a range of other
contributing factors.
The floods are seen by most people as a sign of what can be expected in
the future from climate change.
Although most people are prepared to link the floods and climate
change in their own judgements, many express caution as to whether
there is adequate scientific knowledge to make this connection.
Most people paid attention to media reports of the flooding. Many were
of the opinion that the media, politicians, and people they knew had
made linkages between the flooding and climate change.
Summary and implications of findings
Unsurprisingly, the floods are recalled as a major event which affected the UK. Most
attribute the floods themselves and the damage they caused to a range of factors,
including development on flood plains, insufficient investment in flood defences, and the
management of waterways. Nevertheless, a connection between the floods and climate
change is made by most people.
Notwithstanding the genuine complexity involved in the attribution of discrete weather
events to climate change, these findings suggest that climate change was associated by
members of the public with the extreme weather and floods of 2013/2014.
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Section 3
Characterising the most directly
affected sample
(Base n = 135)
3
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
One of the main aims of this project is to examine variability in perceptions
depending on the extent to which people were affected by the 2013/2014
flooding.
Although we sampled additional respondents from five flood affected areas, not
all respondents in these areas will have experienced the flooding in the same
way. Some for example may have been relatively unaffected, whereas others
may have experienced major disruption, damage, and inconvenience.
There are a number of different ways in which experience of the flooding may
be conceptualised and defined. For the purposes of this report, we have chosen
to focus on those respondents who report direct impacts on their property and
who were living in heavily flood affected parts of the country during the
2013/2014 floods. This, we believe, represents a rigorous approach to
identifying those respondents who were most directly affected in both material
and geographical terms41.
In total, 135 respondents from the flood affected areas
answered in the affirmative to question 2542 (Appendix
2), indicating that their property had been affected by
the floods between November 2013 and February
201443. Compared to a nationally representative
sample, this group of respondents includes slightly
more males than females, is somewhat younger in age,
and includes a somewhat higher percentage of
respondents in social grades AB and C1 (more affluent
social grades). Appendix 1 provides an overview
comparing those respondents who were most directly
affected by the floods to the national sample in terms of
key socio-demographic variables. Overall however,
these 135 respondents are diverse in terms of socioeconomic background44.
In this report, we refer to the
most directly affected
respondents as being those who
(a) reside in the oversampled
areas and
(b) report their property was
directly affected by the flooding
events.
Beyond impacts on property, flooding experience was measured in a number of
additional ways to ensure both direct and indirect experiences of the flooding
were captured, and in order to characterise the most directly affected sample in
more detail. The following section provides an overview of these experiences as
measured in the survey.
Other ways of conceptualising experience might involve considering those that report other
types of disruptions as the result of the flooding – for example, disruption to travel or essential
services. These different ways of examining experience are recorded using our survey
methodology and will be considered in more detail in subsequent analyses, but are not used in
the current report for comparative analysis of climate change perceptions.
42 Respondents were asked: “Was your current or previous property affected by the floods
between November 2013 and February 2014? This could include any land surrounding your
home such as a garden or drive. If you live in a flat it might include communal areas such as a car
park or hallway. Please also answer yes if you stopped the water from flooding your property by
using some form of flood defence such as sand bags or a flood gate.”
43 Of the 135 respondents in the most directly affected sample, 42% were resident in the
oversampled area of Sunbury to Windsor, 20% in Aberystwyth, 16% in Hull, 12% in Gloucester to
Tewkesbury, and 11% in Dawlish.
44 Descriptive statistics reported for the 135 most directly affected respondents are weighted to
the population of the over-sampled localities.
41
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING

Travel/work disruption: 72% of the most directly affected sample also
reported travel/work disruptions as a result of the floods. Of those who
reported such disruptions, half of these reported having done so often
or very frequently (52%). In contrast, only 20% of the national sample
indicated that they had experienced travel disruption or disruption in
their ability to work, and of those only a fifth did so often or very
frequently (i.e. approximately 4% of the national sample).

Disruption to essential services (e.g. gas, electricity, water,
telephone or internet):
Just over half of the most directly affected sample report such
disruptions (55%). Of those that report disruption, just under half
(48%) considered this to be a fairly or very large disruption. In
contrast, only 7% of the national sample report any disruption at all to
essential services.

Impacts on other people in the area: 91% of respondents in the most
directly affected sample report that other people in their area also
experienced damage to their property from the floods. In contrast, only
14% of the national sample knew of people in their area that had
experienced damage to their property.

Self-reported overall impact: Respondents were also asked to
summarize their experience of the floods in terms of how much they felt
they had been personally affected. Given that the most directly affected
sample encompasses those respondents who have experienced
property damage, it is unsurprising that a majority consider the overall
personal impact of the floods upon them to be a fair amount or a great
deal (62%). In contrast, in the national sample only 6% stated that they
had been affected a fair amount or a great deal.

Emotional experience: To further gauge respondents’ personal
experience of the flooding, the survey included a question which asks
respondents to rate (on a scale of 1 to 10) a series of emotions
according to how strongly respondents felt them when asked to think
about the floods. Although both the national and most directly affected
sample reported relatively high levels of sympathy (average ratings of
7.65 and 6.88 out of 10 respectively), the most directly affected sample
reported higher levels of emotions such as anxiety, anger, and distress.
Not surprisingly then, the most directly affected sample can be said to
have had a different emotional experience than the national sample
with respect to more immediate emotions.
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Section 3 conclusions: Characterising the most directly affected sample
In summary, it can be stated with confidence that those respondents
grouped into our most directly affected sample had a more direct and salient
experience of the flood events compared to the national sample, as would
be expected. This is evident across a diverse set of measures gauging
experience, from direct physical disruptions (e.g. to travel plans) to more
personal and emotional experiences.
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Section 4
The experience of flooding and
its influence on climate change
perceptions
4
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
This section of the report sets out to compare the responses of the most directly
affected sample as defined in Section 3 (n=135) with those of the nationally
representative sample (n=1,002), with a focus upon whether direct experience
of the flooding influences perceptions of climate change. To achieve this we
compare responses on a number of key climate change perception questions.
As detailed in our methodology it is important to note that questions on climate
change came before any reference to the winter floods was made within the
survey. This was done to avoid any links between flooding and climate change
becoming salient before respondents had provided their perceptions on climate
change. We consider this to be the most rigorous and appropriate means of
testing whether differences in climate change perceptions are influenced by
flooding experience, as opposed to these arising as an artefact of the survey
design.
Table 2 provides an overview of the constructs and corresponding items we
chose to test for differences (exact question wording is abridged in some cases,
see Appendix 2 for precise wordings). A summary is given of the responses
obtained45 for both the national and the most directly affected samples; and
whether statistical analysis found a significant difference between the two
samples. The selection of survey items to examine for differences (outcome
variables) was made on theoretical grounds before any descriptive data
summaries were obtained. Our research goal was to cover three key constructs
central to research into public perceptions of climate change, namely: climate
change concern, psychological distance of climate change, and personal salience
(importance) of climate change.
In the analyses reported below, we use multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA) for items with more than two answer categories. Items with only
two possible outcomes were analysed using binary logistic regression. In both
cases, analyses controlled for gender and social grade by including them as
covariates46; MANOVAs also account for inflated error rates arising from
comparison of multiple outcome variables47.
In Table 2 we summarise data derived from multiple response categories. For example,
respondents indicated their level of agreement to some questions on a 5-point scale, but here we
show only summary percentages for those responding tend to agree or strongly agree.
Multivariate analyses were however conducted on the full data ranges in each case.
46 We did not include age as a covariate in analyses as previous research has indicated this has a
non-linear relationship with climate change perceptions.
47 Inferential statistics were run using unweighted sample data.
45
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
Table 2
Construct
Climate
change
concern
Psychological
distance of
climate
change
Salience
Statistical comparisons of climate change perceptions between
the national and most directly affected samples48. Significant
differences are reported using the convention
*** (p<.001), ** (p<.01), and * (p<.05).
Question/Item
National
sample
Significance
level
(n=1,002)
Most directly
affected
sample
(n=135)
How concerned are you
about climate change?
68%
fairly/very
concerned
78%
fairly/very
concerned
**, p = .002
Have you become more
or less concerned about
climate change over the
past 12 months?
26% more
concerned
46% more
concerned
***, p < .000
My local area is more
likely to be affected by
climate change than
most other places in
Britain
15% agree
61% agree
***, p < .000
When will the UK start
feeling the effects of
climate change?
55% already
feeling the
effects
65% already
feeling the
effects
Non-significant
How serious a threat is
climate change to you
and your family?
18% very to
extremely
serious
28% very to
extremely
serious
*, p = .045
I worry about climate
change on a day-to-day
basis
18% agree
21% agree
Non-significant
What are the three most
important issues facing
the UK today?
11%
mentioned
climate
change
18%
mentioned
climate
change
Non-significant
What are the three most
important issues facing
the UK in the next 20
years?
15%
mentioned
climate
change
29%
mentioned
climate
change
**, p = .004
(p = .105)
(p = .242)
Inferential statistics were run using unweighted data. Descriptive statistics reported in Table 2
for both national and most directly affected samples are derived from weighted data. For the most
directly affected sample, descriptive statistics for the items as reported in Table 2, based on
unweighted data, are respectively 79%, 45%, 59%, 67%, 31%, 20%, 16% and 30%.
48
Cardiff University |Understanding Risk Research Group
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(p = .380)
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
The results reveal a clear pattern, in that climate change is more salient and
immediate on multiple measures among individuals in the most directly affected
sample.
One particularly striking instance of this relates to the question that asked
respondents to spontaneously name the three most important issues facing the
UK in the next 20 years. Individuals among the most directly affected sample
were twice as likely to mention climate change, than were people in the
nationally representative sample, as illustrated in Figure 8 below.
The same trend manifests for the top three issues facing the UK today although
this difference was found to be statistically non-significant.
35%
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%
most directly
affected sample
Figure 8
national sample
Spontaneous mention of climate change as among the top
three issues facing the UK over the next 20 years
Percentages show proportions of the national and most directly
affected samples referring to climate change.
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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As can be seen from Table 2, level of concern about climate change is
significantly higher among the most directly affected respondents (78% state
they are very or fairly concerned), compared to those respondents from the
nationally representative sample (68% state they are very or fairly concerned).
This is also reflected in respondents’ own self-reported change in concern over
the past 12 months. A significantly greater proportion of the most directly
affected sample reported that their concern about climate change had increased
over the past year (46%), than was the case in the national sample (26%).
Significant differences were also obtained for two of the three psychological
distance items. A large and statistically significant difference was found in
levels of agreement with the statement “My local area is more likely to be
affected by climate change than most other places in Britain”: 61% of the most
directly affected sample strongly agreed or tended to agree with this statement,
versus only 15% of the national sample.
61% of the most directly
affected sample
15% of the national sample
see their local area as more
vulnerable to the effects of
climate change
A statistically significant difference was also found for the perception of climate
change as a threat to self and family. The most directly affected sample were
more likely to see climate change as a threat to themselves and their families,
with 28% saying that this threat was very to extremely serious, as compared to
18% of the national sample.
Respondents in the most directly affected sample perceived climate change as
closer in time (for example, 65% felt we are already feeling its effects) than did
those in the national sample (55% felt we are already feeling its effects) –
however, this difference was not statistically significant.
A relatively small and non-significant difference between samples emerged for
levels of agreement with the statement “I worry about climate change on a dayto-day basis”: 21% agreed with this in the most directly affected sample, versus
18% in the national sample.
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
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Section 4 conclusions: The experience of flooding and its influence on
climate change perceptions



Compared to the national sample responses, those in the group (n=135)
who were most directly affected by the floods during 2013/2014 are
more concerned about climate change, more likely to state they have
become more concerned in the last year, and more likely to see climate
change as one of the most important issues facing the UK in the future.
People who are in the most directly affected group are also more likely
to consider climate change a serious threat to themselves and their
family, and are much more likely to see their local area as more
vulnerable to climatic events.
These findings can be taken as going some considerable way to
demonstrating cause and effect: our methodology was carefully
constructed to allow us to examine the influence of flood experience
upon climate change perceptions.
Summary and implications of findings
Our findings show that experience of the 2013/2014 winter flooding is related to key
differences in climate change perceptions amongst the flood-affected group – and we
conclude that this experience was most likely to be the underlying trigger for such
differences. This applies both in terms of people’s perceptions of the proximity and
threat posed from climate change, and in terms of the degree to which it is seen as a
salient national concern.
These findings, together with those described in sections 1 and 2, point to the potential
for experiences of extreme weather events to change attitudes towards climate change
and to raise its salience among the public.
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Conclusions and Implications
This report describes some of the headline findings from our study of British
public perceptions of climate change, which was conducted in the autumn of
2014 following the major flooding events that occurred in the UK over the
winter of 2013/2014. Taken as a whole these findings make a significant
contribution to the international academic debate about the important
relationship between public engagement with climate change and the forms of
severe weather event that the world will increasingly have to deal with in the
future. Although the data set is a complex one, and hence requires further more
detailed analysis by the research team in subsequent months, several core
findings are worthy of comment here.
Attitudes towards climate change in the UK as elsewhere have ebbed and
flowed over the past 10 years (Capstick et al., 2015). The very high levels of
concern seen in 2005 were followed by declines in belief over the period 20052010. Since then attitudes on various national UK surveys have tended to
remain broadly stable. That being said, and looking at the period 2005-2014 as
a whole, climate scepticism has only ever existed amongst a small minority of
the British public, with large majorities (over 70% in most reliable surveys
conducted during that period) endorsing that they believed the climate was
indeed changing. The current results are therefore important in demonstrating,
for the first time in a nationally representative sample collected since 2005,
that levels of belief in the occurrence of climate change and its anthropogenic
component are again close to those high levels last seen in 2005, while
scepticism has correspondingly receded. That is an important initial finding of
this research.
It is often argued that in relation to other everyday worries and concerns,
climate change is a wholly insignificant issue for people. Very few people report
worrying about climate change on a day-to-day basis, and the survey also
confirms, not surprisingly, that other issues (such as the economy, the NHS,
immigration) were deemed more important priorities for the UK today. This
said, a significant proportion of our respondents did mention climate change as
one of the three most important issues to face the UK over the coming 20 years.
The proportion doing so is even more than those referring to crime and
education, and not far below the number of people mentioning the NHS and
health care, as concerns over the coming 20 years. Based upon this evidence,
and that of the strengthening levels of belief in the reality of climate described
above, it is clearly not the case to say that climate change has no importance for
ordinary people. A further clear message to note, which has added significance
given the international negotiations to be held in Paris at the end of 2015, is
that people clearly expect governments to take the lead in tackling climate
change, with very little opposition evident to the UK signing up to international
agreements to do this.
Regarding the winter flooding of 2013/2014, the results are again complex and
worthy of further detailed statistical analysis. But the findings from this survey
make abundantly clear that, on a variety of measures, the British public have
made various connections between the winter floods and climate change, and
indeed viewed it as one of the contributing causes of the flooding. While other
more immediate and obvious issues (perceived insufficient investment in flood
defences, river and coastal management, floodplain development) were more
salient, it is nevertheless genuinely surprising to see the large number of people
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
who agreed with an attribution to climate change. Furthermore many also
agree that the 2013/2014 winter flooding was an indication that climate
change is impacting us now, and was a sign of further things to come. As Renn
(2011) has put it, the floods may well be serving as a strong ‘focusing event’
drawing attention to climate change.
Alongside gathering a nationally representative sample of beliefs, a second core
aim of the study was to investigate whether different understandings might
exist within a flood affected sample. This in effect takes advantage of a naturally
occurring experiment, where one group have a greatly amplified and personal
experience of these disruptive events, as compared to a second group (in the
national sample) who did not. This aspect of the research set the team a range
of methodological challenges, not least to define a ‘directly affected’ subsample. In the event, and for the purposes of this report, we have focused on the
relatively small group of people from the five flood affected areas who reported
water directly affecting their property. The results are clear here too, with these
individuals exhibiting a range of heightened concerns about the impacts of
climate change both in general and in relation to their local area. It is
particularly striking that amongst this group almost twice the proportion as
found in the national sample answered unprompted, and at the very start of the
survey before flooding was even mentioned by the interviewer, that climate
change will be one of the top issues facing the UK in the next 20 years. In
summary, these most directly affected respondents appear to be experiencing a
reduced ‘psychological distance’ of climate change.
Reading across the evidence from both the national sample and directly
affected respondents, our findings suggest quite strongly that a significant
association between the winter flooding and climate change has already been
formed in the British public mind. Perhaps this should come as no surprise,
given the fact that climate change and UK climate impacts have been rising on
the UK environmental policy agenda for well over 15 years now, while at the
very same time incidences of major flooding have become a recurrent topic of
British media attention stretching at least back to the major flooding in York in
November 2000.
Our findings hold important implications for climate change communications
also. As several previous analyses and commentaries have noted (e.g., Marshall,
2014a,b; Trenberth, 2012; Pidgeon and Fischhoff, 2011) the challenges faced by
communicators seeking to engage the public around climate impacts are
significant. Because of the probabilistic and often indirect link between
‘weather’ and ‘climate’, clearly worded statements about cause and effect – or
confident predictions about the future – are often problematic. This is reflected
in a further interesting finding of the current survey: that people were generally
cautious in accepting that scientists could attribute any single weather event to
climate change.
However, many of the most striking findings from a communication perspective
relate to the consistently high levels of agreement with statements about the
increasing prevalence of flooding, the attribution of flooding to climate change,
and a widespread belief that the country was not prepared for what occurred.
Taken together, these form the core of a potentially powerful message for
communicators – and suggest that appealing to popular opinion on the need to
tackle climate impacts more seriously may be an effective approach for
prompting greater engagement with the issue. It is commonplace to hear
politicians or campaigners refer to public opinion as a core justification for a
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PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN BRITAIN
FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
policy or approach in many other domains – in effect, drawing on the power of
social norms – and the current findings suggest that this may in turn also be a
productive approach for engaging the public around climate impacts.
While data on public perceptions cannot overcome the challenges associated
with the complexity of the relationship between weather and climate, the
results presented in this report provide important guidance for the type of
language and rhetoric that is likely to resonate with both flooded communities
and the general population, ensuring that public engagement with climate
impacts in the future is proportionate to the risks that they pose. We might also
add that if many ordinary people themselves are beginning to make these
linkages, both scientists and policy makers should be more decisive in seeking
to demonstrate how weather events serve as an example of the future risks
posed by climate change to the UK and its citizens.
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FOLLOWING THE WINTER 2013/2014 FLOODING
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Cardiff University |Understanding Risk Research Group
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Appendix 1: Socio-demographic profiles of the national
and most directly affected sample49
Gender (% male)
Age
- 16-24
- 25-34
- 35-44
- 45-54
- 55-64
- 65-74
- 75+
Social Gradea
- AB
- C1
- C2
- DE
Educational Attainment
- No formal qualifications
- GCSE/O-level/CSE
- Vocational qualification
- A-Level or equivalent
- Bachelor degree or
equivalent
- Masters/PhD or
equivalent
- Other
- Still studying
- Don’t know
Tenure
- Owner Occupier
- Renting
Time lived in area
- Up to 3 years
- More than 3 and up
to/including 5 years
- More than 5 and up
to/including 7 years
- More than 7 and up
to/including 10 years
- More than 10 years
National sample
(n=1,002);
weighted
49%
Most directly
affected respondents
(n=135); weighted
60%
15%
16%
15%
19%
14%
12%
9%
23%
11%
16%
18%
11%
15%
7%
22%
31%
21%
26%
34%
38%
13%
16%
17%
18%
10%
22%
20%
8%
9%
8%
32%
26%
6%
11%
6%
1%
0%
6%
0%
0%
64%
35%
58%
39%
15%
7%
25%
11%
6%
6%
10%
7%
63%
52%
a
The social grades presented here reflect the social class definitions as used by the Institute of
Practitioners in Advertising based on the occupation of the chief income earner. The classification is as
follows: A: Higher managerial, administrative or professional; B: Intermediate managerial,
administrative or professional; C1: Supervisor or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or
professional; C2: Skilled manual workers; D: Semi and unskilled manual workers; and E: State
pensioners, etc, with no other earnings (those at the lowest levels of subsistence).
Descriptive statistics reported for the most directly affected respondents are weighted to the
population of the over-sampled localities.
49
49
Appendix 2: Questionnaire and Topline data
The following sections provide the complete data tables for all questions used in
the survey conducted by Cardiff University.
 Results are based on 1,002 face-to-face CAPI interviews with members of
the British public aged 16+.
 Data from flood-affected areas (as detailed in the methodology section of
this report) have been excluded from this topline and will be presented
elsewhere.
 Fieldwork was conducted between 28 August and 31 October 2014.
 Data are weighted to the profile of the known population.
 Occasionally results do not sum to 100, and this may be due use of multiple
response categories, the exclusion of ‘don’t know’ answers, or rounding.
 Questions with multiple items employed random order presentation.
 Additional text that was used to obtain informed consent and assess
eligibility to participate is not included here but is available from the
authors on request.
Q1.
What would you say are the three most important issues facing the UK today?
These don’t need to be environmental issues, but whatever issues you think are the most
50
important. (Unprompted spontaneous answers)
Race relations / Immigration
Economy / Economic situation
Unemployment / Factory Closures / Lack of
Industry
National Health Service / Health care
Terrorism
Crime
Poverty / Inequality
Housing
Education
Climate change
War / Conflict
Protecting the environment / Dealing with pollution
Inflation / Prices
Pensions / Social security
Politics / government / lack of faith / trust in
politicians
Don’t know
35%
33%
25%
20%
15%
14%
13%
12%
12%
11%
11%
9%
8%
6%
4%
4%
50
In order to obtain informed consent from respondents, they were informed by
interviewers before agreeing to take part that “We are carrying out a survey on behalf of
Cardiff and Nottingham Universities about your thoughts, feelings and experience on a
range of environmental issues, as well as views about your local area”. The first question of
the survey proper (Q1) asked respondents to state what they saw as “the three most
important issues facing the UK”. In order to be clear that there was not an expectation that
they refer to environmental issues, they were also told within Q1: “These don’t need to be
environmental issues, but whatever issues you think are the most important”.
50
Q2.
What would you say are the three most important issues that will face the UK in the next 20
years? (Unprompted spontaneous answers)
Race relations / Immigration
Economy / Economic situation
Unemployment / Factory Closures / Lack of
Industry
National Health Service / Health care
Climate change
Terrorism
Housing
Poverty / Inequality
War / Conflict
Protecting the environment / Dealing with pollution
Crime
Education
Pensions / Social security
Inflation / Prices
Population growth / over population
Don’t know
Q3.
46%
39%
12%
11%
5%
3%
2%
8%
How concerned, if at all, are you about climate change, which is sometimes referred to as
‘global warning?
Very concerned
Fairly concerned
Not very
concerned
Not at all
concerned
Don’t know
Q5.
21%
19%
15%
15%
14%
13%
13%
10%
10%
9%
8%
6%
4%
8%
What first comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘climate change’? (This question is not part
of this report and will be analysed at a later stage. Percentages are aggregated for various terms that
fell under the corresponding category.)
Weather
Environment
Concerns
Scepticism
Seasons
Energy
Neutral
Miscellaneous
Q4.
31%
28%
2005
44%
38%
12%
2010
28%
43%
19%
2011
22%
41%
22%
2012
24%
50%
20%
2013
21%
39%
27%
2014
3%
8%
13%
6%
7%
7%
1%
2%
1%
1%
5%
1%
18%
49%
24%
As far as you know, do you think the world’s climate is changing, or not?
Yes
No
Don’t know
2005
91%
4%
5%
2010
78%
15%
6%
2011
80%
13%
7%
2012
79%
11%
11%
2013
72%
19%
9%
51
2014
88%
6%
6%
Q6.
Which, if any, of the following best describes your opinion about the causes of climate
change?
2014
2010
2011
2012
2013
It is entirely caused by natural processes 6%
4%
8%
4%
5%
It is mainly caused by natural processes 12%
12%
12%
12%
9%
It is partly caused by natural processes 47%
46%
48%
46%
48%
and partly caused by human activity
29%
It is mainly caused by human activity 24%
22%
28%
22%
7%
It is entirely caused by human activity 7%
6%
4%
6%
There is no such thing as climate 2%
1%
2%
2%
2%
change
Don’t know 3%
2%
3%
2%
7%
Q7.
How serious a threat, if at all, is climate change to each of the following?
Please read out the letter that applies.
You and your family
The UK as a whole
People in developing
countries
Q8.
Extremely
Serious
Very
serious
Fairly
serious
Not very
serious
Not at all
serious
Don’t
know
5%
9%
13%
26%
39%
44%
34%
17%
7%
3%
1%
2%
23%
38%
26%
6%
1%
5%
When, if at all, do you think the UK will start feeling the effects of climate change?
We are already feeling the effects
In the next 10 years
In the next 25 years
In the next 50 years
In the next 100 years
Beyond the next 100 years
Never
Don’t know
No Opinion
Q9.
55%
12%
12%
8%
5%
2%
2%
4%
0%
Thinking about your answers to the questions we have asked so far, how confident or not,
would you say you are about your views on climate change overall? Please answer on a scale
of 1 to 10 where 1 is not at all confident and 10 is extremely confident.
1 (not at all confident)
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10 (extremely confident)
Don’t know
4%
2%
5%
7%
21%
12%
17%
14%
6%
11%
0%
52
Q10.
How often, if at all, do you currently do each of the following?
Discuss climate change
with your family and
friends?
Read and think about
climate change?
Q11.
Very
often
Some
times
Not
very
often
Rarely
Hardly
ever
Never
Don’t
know
6%
33%
17%
13%
14%
17%
0%
11%
35%
20%
12%
11%
12%
0%
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
The impacts of
climate change
will be severe
It is clear to me
that climate
change is really
happening
It is uncertain
what the effects
of climate
change will be
I worry about
climate change
on a day-to-day
basis
Strongly
agree
Tend to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
No
opinion
21%
44%
17%
8%
3%
6%
0%
33%
45%
11%
6%
2%
2%
0%
15%
50%
16%
11%
4%
4%
0%
3%
15%
20%
32%
29%
1%
0%
53
Q12.
Road pricing schemes to
reduce traffic in town and
city centres
(Road pricing schemes
require motorists to make
a payment to the local
council for each day they
enter town or city centres.
The payment tends to
apply when congestion is
heaviest.)
Tax increases to pay for
more renewable energy
The UK signing up to
international agreements
to limit carbon emissions
Q13.
Strongly
support
Tend to
support
Neither
support
nor
oppose
15%
32%
18%
18%
15%
2%
9%
30%
18%
22%
17%
3%
29%
45%
14%
4%
3%
4%
Tend to
oppose
Strongly
oppose
Don’t
know
In the next few years, how likely or unlikely do you think you would be to do each of the
following?
(IF RESPONDENT SAYS THEY HAVE ALREADY TAKEN ACTION: How likely would you be to do
this again or to continue to do this in the next few years?)
Change to a ‘green’ energy
supplier which would reduce the
impact on the environment from
the electricity you use in your
home
(Your answers will not be shared
with any energy companies for
marketing or any other purpose,
and they have no involvement in
this research which is being
conducted by Cardiff and
Nottingham Universities.)
Cut down the amount you travel
by car
Buy appliances that are more
energy-efficient
Reduce the amount of energy you
use at home
Write letters, email, or phone your
local MP about climate change
Sign a petition about climate
change, either online or in person
Very
likely
Fairly
likely
About
as
likely
as not
16%
33%
24%
14%
9%
5%
12%
28%
18%
21%
17%
4%
43%
41%
8%
5%
2%
1%
31%
49%
12%
6%
2%
0%
4%
10%
13%
27%
46%
0%
17%
36%
14%
14%
19%
0%
Fairly
unlikely
Very
unlikely
Don’t
know
54
Q14.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
I would be willing
to make
significant
changes to my
lifestyle in order
to help address
climate change
I would be willing
to pay more for
some goods and
services in order
to help address
climate change
Changing my
lifestyle will make
little difference
with regards to
climate change
If everyone does
their bit we can
tackle the causes
of climate change
My local area is
more likely to be
affected by
climate change
than most other
places in Britain
Q15.
Strongly
agree
Tend
to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
No
opinion
11%
42%
27%
13%
7%
1%
0%
8%
40%
21%
18%
11%
1%
0%
12%
33%
21%
25%
7%
1%
0%
28%
47%
12%
8%
3%
1%
0%
2%
13%
21%
37%
23%
4%
0%
Would you say you have become more or less concerned about climate change over the past
12 months, or have your views remained about the same?
Much more concerned
Slightly more concerned
About the same
Slightly less concerned
Much less concerned
Don’t know
5%
21%
69%
3%
1%
1%
55
Q16.
Q17.
THOSE WHO HAVE CHANGED VIEW TO MORE CONCERNED
Why are you more concerned about climate change than you were 12 months ago? (Top 15
mentions only, plus don’t know and no answer responses)
Floods / heavy rain / rising river levels 26%
Weather / extreme weather / changes in weather
patterns 25%
Media reports / seen it on TV / internet / news reports /
newspapers 13%
You can see the effects / witnessed effects first hand 8%
Nothing`s being done / political indifference /
unwillingness to change 8%
Concerned for children / future generations 6%
Hot / dry weather / droughts / rising temperatures 6%
Pollution / emissions / poor air quality 5%
Education / learned about it at school / college /
university / work 4%
Information / more info available / greater awareness 4%
Ice caps / glaciers / mountain peaks melting 4%
Storms / thunder / lightning storms 4%
Winters are colder / more severe 3%
Fossil fuels / fracking / over dependence on oil / gas
etc. 3%
Effects can be seen overseas / around the world /
global problem 3%
Don’t know 2%
No answer 1%
Have you noticed any signs of climate change during your lifetime or not?
Yes 76%
No 20%
Don’t know 3%
THOSE WHO HAVE NOTICED SIGNS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
What signs of climate change have you noticed during your lifetime? (Top 15 mentions
Q18.
only)
Weather / extreme weather / changing weather
patterns 39%
Rain / heavy rainfall / floods / rising river levels 27%
Seasons / changes / early / no seasons 20%
Winter / wetter / warmer / milder winters 17%
Hot / dry weather / droughts / rising temperature 14%
Summer / changes to summer 6%
Summer / hot / dry summers 6%
Melting ice caps / glaciers 5%
Storms / thunder / lightning storms 4%
Winter / changes to winter 4%
Summer / cooler / wetter summers 4%
Pollutions / emissions / poor air quality 4%
Winter / snow / frost / heavy freezing / colder winters 4%
Flowers / plants / crops / impact on farming 4%
Rising water levels / sea / oceans / tides 3%
Don’t know 1%
No answer 1%
56
Q19.
During your life, do you feel the following have become more or less frequent in the UK, or
stayed about the same?
Dry periods without rain
Heatwaves, that is periods of very
high temperatures
Flooding
Severe storms
A lot
more
frequent
A little
more
frequent
Abou
t the
same
A little
less
frequent
A lot less
frequent
Don’t
know
8%
35%
39%
13%
1%
4%
7%
43%
19%
40%
42%
45%
36%
12%
29%
12%
1%
3%
2%
0%
1%
3%
2%
3%
Q20.
Dry periods
without rain
Heatwaves, that
is periods of
very high
temperatures
Flooding
Severe storms
Virtually
certain
Very
likely
Fairly
likely
About as
likely as
not
Fairly
unlikely
7%
24%
33%
21%
9%
7%
22%
13%
25%
35%
33%
33%
26%
30%
20%
10%
16%
6%
1%
2%
Exceptio
nally
unlikely
Don’t
know
2%
0%
4%
3%
1%
1%
0%
0%
1%
5%
4%
5%
Very
unlikely
57
Q21.
Major increases
in food prices,
as a result of
extreme weather
affecting
harvests
More people’s
health suffering
in extreme heat
than is currently
the case, due to
more frequent
heat waves
Fewer
vulnerable
people dying in
the cold than is
currently the
case, due to
milder winters
More homes
being flooded
than is currently
the case as a
result of heavy
rainfall
Serious water
shortages due
to droughts and
changes in
rainfall patterns
Virtually
certain
Very
likely
Fairly
likely
About as
likely as
not
Fairly
unlikely
Very
unlikely
Exceptio
nally
unlikely
Don’t
know
16%
37%
30%
9%
3%
1%
0%
3%
7%
26%
33%
19%
9%
2%
1%
4%
3%
14%
30%
26%
17%
4%
1%
5%
16%
35%
32%
9%
3%
1%
1%
3%
5%
20%
31%
19%
14%
5%
1%
5%
Q22.
Seek advice on how
to cope with
heatwaves and water
shortages
Find out about how
to avoid health
problems during
heat waves
Install a water re-use
system (for example,
to collect rainwater)
in case of water
shortages during
droughts.
(This could be to
collect water for use
in your home or
garden.)
I don’t
think this
is relevant
to me
It is very
unlikely I
would
do this
I would
possibly
consider
doing
this
I would
definitely
consider
doing
this
I am
intending
to do this
I’ve
done
this
Don’t
know
15%
28%
33%
17%
2%
4%
1%
16%
27%
28%
20%
3%
6%
1%
11%
20%
27%
21%
3%
16%
2%
58
I'm going to ask you about your views on where you live, and about your views on other parts of the world
To what extent, if at all, do you feel a sense of belonging to the following areas? Please answer
Q23.
on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is no sense of belonging and 5 is a very strong sense of belonging.
Don’t
know
17%
30%
41%
0%
8%
9%
22%
17%
31%
26%
36%
42%
1%
1%
16%
20%
12%
10%
2%
2
3
4%
8%
3%
5%
40%
The local area where you live.
By this I mean the area within
a 15-20 minute walk from your
home.
The city or county where you
live.
Britain as a country.
Any other part of the world
besides Britain.
Q24.
4
5 (very
strong
sense of
belonging)
1 (no
sense of
belonging)
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about your
neighbourhood, that is, the area close to where you live?
If I need advice about
something I can go to
someone in my
neighbourhood
I believe my neighbours
would help one another in
an emergency of any kind
People in my local
community pull together to
improve the area
Strongly
agree
Tend
to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
21%
39%
18%
15%
6%
1%
50%
36%
6%
5%
2%
1%
22%
38%
21%
13%
4%
2%
I’m going to ask you about your thoughts on the floods which affected parts of
the UK between November 2013 and February 2014. We appreciate you might
have experienced flooding at another point but please answer the questions
with last winter in mind, that is November 2013 to February 2014.
Q25.
Was your current or previous property affected by the floods between November 2013 and
February 2014? This could include any land surrounding your home such as a garden or
drive. If you live in a flat it might include communal areas such as a car park or hallway.
Please also answer yes if you stopped the water from flooding your property by using some
form of flood defence such as sand bags or a flood gate.
Yes
No
Don’t know
3%
97%
0%
59
QUESTION Q26 WAS ONLY ASKED OF THOSE ANSWERING 'YES' TO Q25.
Q26.
Which if any of the following did the flood water reach? Please read out the letters that apply.
(Remember please just think about any flooding which occurred between November 2013 and
February 2014.) MULTICODE
Street or garden outside of the house/flat where I
live
Hallway or basement of my house/flat
Below floor level in the lounge, kitchen or other
habitable rooms
Above floor level in the lounge, kitchen or other
habitable rooms
Business property or farmland
My property was not damaged, but only because I
took measures to prevent this (for example, using
sandbags, flood boards)
None of the above
Q27.
80%
4%
15%
9%
0%
0%
7%
Did you experience travel disruption or disruption to your ability to work as a result of the
floods or not?
Yes
No
Don’t know
20%
80%
0%
THOSE WHO EXPERIENCED DISRUPTION TO TRAVEL OR WORK
How often did you experience this disruption during and after the floods?
Q28.
Only on one occasion
A small number of times
Often
Very frequently
Don’t know
Q29.
21%
58%
14%
7%
0%
Did you experience disruption of essential services such as gas, electricity, water supply,
drains, telephone or internet as a result of the floods or not?
Yes
No
Don’t know
7%
93%
0%
THOSE WHO EXPERIENCED DISRUPTION TO ESSENTIAL SERVICES
How extensive was this disruption?
Q30.
Very small
Fairly small
Moderate
Fairly large
Very large
Don’t know
Q31.
19%
29%
44%
5%
3%
0%
As far as you know, did other people in your area experience damage to their property from
the floods or not? By your area I mean within a 15-20 minute walk from your home.
Yes
No
Don’t know
14%
83%
3%
60
Q32.
As far as you know, were any of your friends and family directly affected by the floods or not?
By directly affected I mean damage to their property or other types of significant disruption,
for example to their work or to travel.
Yes
No
Don’t know
Q33.
23%
77%
0%
In summary, thinking about everything we have discussed so far, to what extent have you
personally been affected by the floods that took place between November 2013 and February
2014?
A great deal
A fair amount
Just a little
Not at all
1%
5%
18%
75%
QUESTIONS 34 TO 39 WERE ONLY ASKED OF THOSE WHO INDICATED THEY HAD BEEN AFFECTED IN SOME
WAY (I.E. ANSWERING 'YES' TO ANY OF QUESTIONS 31 TO 33
The following questions are about your experiences of the floods and how they affected you personally.
We understand that some of the questions might be difficult for you to answer or ask for information you
would prefer not to share. If there is any question you would prefer to not answer, just let me know and
we’ll move on to the next one.
Q34.
At the time the floods were occurring in late 2013 and early 2014, to what extent, if at all, did
they have a negative effect on your wellbeing? This could include how you felt physically or
emotionally.
They had no negative effect at all on my wellbeing
They had a fairly small negative effect on my
wellbeing
They had a fairly large negative effect on my
wellbeing
They had a very large negative effect on my
wellbeing
Don’t know
Refused
Q35.
48%
40%
8%
3%
0%
0%
At the time the floods were occurring, how well do you feel you were able to cope with the
impacts of the flooding?
Not at all well
Not very well
Fairly well
Very well
Don’t know
Not applicable
Refused
2%
8%
39%
40%
0%
11%
0%
61
Q36.
At the time the floods were occurring, how much support, if any, would you say you had,
either from friends, family or someone else?
A great deal
A fair amount
Not very much
None at all
Don’t know
Not applicable
Refused
Q37.
As a result of the flooding, do you feel your household financial circumstances are better,
worse or about the same?
Better
About the same
A little worse
Moderately worse
A lot worse
Don’t know
Refused
Q38.
1%
78%
11%
2%
1%
6%
1%
Which, if any, of the following have you experienced as a consequence of the flooding?
MULTICODE
Anxiety when it rains heavily
Increased stress levels
Sleeping problems
None of the above
Don’t know
Refused
Q39.
8%
18%
13%
25%
1%
34%
0%
15%
10%
5%
72%
1%
0%
To what extent do you agree or disagree that your life has got back to ‘normal’ since the
floods.
Strongly agree
Tend to agree
Neither agree nor disagree
Tend to disagree
Strongly disagree
Not applicable
Don’t know
No opinion
Refused
43%
17%
16%
2%
0%
20%
0%
2%
0%
62
Q40.
When the floods occurred between November 2013 and February 2014, how often, if at all,
would you say you discussed the floods with your friends and family?
Nearly always
Very often
Sometimes
Not very often
Rarely
Hardly ever
Never
Don’t know
Q41.
4%
24%
37%
10%
8%
6%
11%
0%
When you think about the floods how strongly, if at all, have you felt each of the following
emotions? Please rate each emotion on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 means you have not felt
it at all and 10 means you have felt it extremely.
(If you have experienced flooding at other times, please just think about the feelings you have
experienced in relation to the floods which occurred last winter, between November 2013 and
February 2014. If you would like to say something about your other experiences then you will
be able to do so towards the end of the interview.)
1 (I have not
felt this at
all)
Sadness
Anxiety
Pride
Gratitude
Anger
Helplessness
Sympathy
Surprise
Indifference
Distress
Q42.
14%
43%
57%
46%
40%
36%
4%
23%
46%
38%
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
(I have
felt this
extremely)
7%
15%
8%
7%
10%
8%
2%
9%
13%
12%
8%
9%
4%
3%
7%
6%
2%
10%
8%
10%
5%
6%
4%
5%
5%
5%
3%
9%
5%
5%
12%
9%
12%
13%
10%
10%
7%
16%
15%
11%
9%
7%
5%
6%
7%
5%
6%
8%
4%
7%
15%
4%
2%
5%
7%
8%
12%
8%
4%
7%
13%
3%
3%
5%
6%
9%
20%
9%
3%
5%
6%
2%
3%
3%
3%
4%
13%
3%
1%
2%
11%
3%
2%
6%
5%
8%
30%
6%
2%
3%
You rated the emotion [INSERT EMOTION FROM Q41] the highest, can you say a little more
about why you experienced this emotion?
You rated the emotions [INSERT EMOTIONS FROM Q41] the highest, can you choose one of
these and say a little more about why you experienced this emotion?
63
Q43.
Thinking about the floods which took place between November 2013 and February 2014, to
what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
The floods were
some of the worst
events to have
happened to the UK
in recent years
The seriousness of
the floods was
exaggerated
The extent of the
flooding was
completely
unexpected
The UK was not
prepared for the
magnitude of the
floods
Overall, affected
regions around the
UK coped well with
the impacts of the
flooding
Q44.
Strongly
agree
Tend
to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
No
opinion
28%
47%
13%
8%
2%
2%
0%
1%
8%
12%
39%
36%
4%
0%
18%
36%
17%
20%
5%
2%
0%
42%
40%
8%
5%
3%
2%
0%
5%
31%
21%
29%
9%
4%
0%
Thinking about the floods and the impact they had. To what extent do you think each of the
following contributed to the floods?
Climate change
Poor river and coastal
management
Insufficient investment in flood
defences
Lack of preparation by
households and businesses
Development including house
building in flood-prone areas
Not at
all
Just a
little
A fair
amount
A great
deal
Don’t
know
7%
25%
40%
21%
7%
4%
15%
37%
38%
6%
3%
16%
32%
44%
4%
15%
33%
33%
13%
6%
4%
15%
27%
46%
7%
64
Q45.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about the floods
that happened between November 2013 and February 2014?
The floods were
caused, in part, by
climate change
There was no clear
cause of the floods,
they were just freak
weather events
The floods were a
sign that the impacts
of climate change
are happening now
Scientists don’t
know enough to be
able to link the
floods that took
place earlier this
year to climate
change
It is inappropriate to
discuss climate
change at a time
when people are
being affected by
flooding
It is impossible to
link a single event
like a flood to
climate change
The floods showed
us what we can
expect in the future
from climate change
Most media reports
at the time linked the
floods to climate
change
I did not pay much
attention to news
reports on the floods
Some politicians at
the time linked the
floods to climate
change
People I know
thought the floods
were caused in part
by climate change
Most of the things I
heard about the
flooding had nothing
to do with climate
change
Strongly
agree
Tend
to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
No
opinion
11%
52%
19%
8%
4%
5%
0%
6%
24%
19%
31%
15%
4%
1%
19%
47%
18%
8%
4%
4%
1%
8%
28%
26%
23%
5%
9%
1%
5%
13%
19%
33%
28%
1%
1%
12%
33%
18%
25%
8%
5%
0%
22%
50%
17%
6%
4%
1%
0%
10%
42%
26%
11%
2%
8%
1%
4%
13%
12%
41%
29%
1%
0%
9%
47%
22%
6%
1%
14%
1%
8%
46%
24%
10%
3%
8%
1%
5%
20%
25%
31%
11%
8%
0%
65
Q46.
How many separate flood events, if any, have caused major disruption to your life since
2000.? This should include any experience of disruption over the past 12 months, as well as
any major disruption you have experienced in previous places in which you have lived.
None
One
Two
Three
More than three
74%
10%
9%
3%
5%
I’m now going to ask you some questions about your thoughts on future flood risks, and the sorts of
actions that can be taken to prevent against flooding.
Do you believe your property is at risk of flooding in the next 10 years?
Q47.
Definitely at risk
Probably at risk
Probably not at risk
Definitely not at risk
Don’t know
Refused
Q48.
2%
10%
29%
55%
3%
0%
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
If floods were to
affect my property
this year, I would
feel able to cope
with this
Experiencing
flooding can help
bring a community
together
Individuals should
be the ones to take
responsibility to
protect their homes
from flooding
The government has
Strongly
agree
Tend
to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
No
opinion
9%
36%
14%
24%
11%
3%
1%
22%
58%
12%
5%
1%
2%
1%
8%
38%
21%
22%
10%
1%
0%
29%
42%
15%
11%
1%
1%
0%
9%
46%
23%
18%
4%
1%
0%
the main
responsibility for
protecting properties
against flooding
Communities are
best placed to take
responsibility to
protect people from
flooding
66
Q49.
The following actions can be taken by individuals to help respond to the risks and the
impacts of flooding. Which of the options best describes what you think about each of
these?
Buying flood
protection products
such as flood boards
or sand bags
Making sure I have
insurance cover for
flooding
Signing up for flood
warnings from local
agencies
Seeking advice (for
example, from a
building surveyor)
on how to protect
my property against
flooding
Thinking through or
preparing a plan of
what I should do in a
flood
Attending meetings
or joining a
community group
related to flooding
I don’t
think this
is
relevant
to me
It is very
unlikely I
would
do this
I would
possibly
consider
doing this
I would
definitely
consider
doing
this
I am
intending
to do this
I’ve
done
this
already
Don’t
know
39%
24%
22%
12%
1%
1%
1%
23%
10%
15%
19%
3%
26%
3%
30%
18%
24%
20%
2%
4%
2%
34%
24%
21%
16%
1%
1%
2%
31%
18%
28%
17%
2%
2%
2%
31%
29%
26%
11%
1%
0%
2%
67
Q50.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
(We are interested in people’s wider beliefs about society and how these relate to attitudes
on the environment.)
Discrimination
against minorities is
still a very serious
problem in our
society
The world would be
a better place if its
wealth were divided
equally among
nations
In my ideal society,
all basic needs such
as food, housing,
education and health
care would be
guaranteed by the
government for
everyone
People should be
allowed to make as
much money as they
can for themselves,
even if others are
not able to
When I have
problems, I try to
solve them on my
own
If the government
spent less time
trying to fix
everybody’s
problems, we’d all
be a lot better off
Being
environmentally
friendly is an
important part of
who I am
I think of myself as
someone who is
very concerned with
environmental
issues
Q51.
Strongly
agree
Tend
to
agree
Neither
agree nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Don’t
know
No
opinion
27%
39%
18%
9%
2%
4%
1%
24%
33%
18%
15%
6%
3%
1%
37%
37%
10%
12%
4%
0%
0%
17%
34%
19%
16%
10%
2%
1%
38%
47%
8%
5%
1%
0%
0%
19%
26%
22%
17%
10%
4%
1%
20%
47%
21%
8%
2%
1%
1%
16%
42%
25%
12%
4%
0%
1%
Before today, had you been interviewed about your opinion on climate change since
November 2013 or not? This could have been an interview for a journalist, university
researcher or market survey company?
Yes
No
Don’t know
2%
98%
0%
68
Q52.
Have you attended any public events in which the winter floods were discussed in the context
of climate change?
Yes 2%
No 98%
Don’t know 0%
I would now like to finish the interview by asking you some questions about you and your household.
The answers to these questions will help us understand the views of different groups of people on
climate change and the recent floods.
Here is a list of daily newspapers. Which, if any, of these do you read or look at regularly? By
Q53.
regularly I mean on average at least three out of four issues. MULTICODE
Daily Mail 12%
The Sun 11%
The Guardian 8%
Metro 8%
The Daily Telegraph 5%
Daily Mirror 5%
The Times 5%
The Independent 3%
Evening Standard 3%
"i" newspaper 2%
Daily Star 2%
Daily Express 1%
Financial Times 1%
The Scotsman 1%
Daily Record 0%
None of these 55%
Don’t know 0%
Q54.
Q55.
How long have you lived in this area?
Up to and including 6 months
More than six months, up to and including 1 year
More than 1 year, up to and including 3 years
More than 3 years, up to and including 5 years
More than 5 years, up to and including 7 years
More than 7 years, up to and including 10 years
More than 10 years
Don’t know
Refused
1%
3%
11%
7%
6%
10%
63%
0%
0%
In which of these ways does your household occupy this accommodation?
Buying with mortgage loan 30%
Own it outright 34%
Part rent/part mortgage 2%
Rents (including rents paid by housing benefit) 33%
Living here rent free 0%
Don’t know 0%
Refused 0%
69
Q56.
Which, if any, is the highest educational or professional qualification you have obtained?
Please read out the letter or letters which apply.
GCSE / O-level / CSE
Vocational qualifications (=NVQ1+2)
A-Level or equivalent (=NVQ3)
Bachelor Degree or equivalent (=NVQ4)
Masters / PhD or equivalent
Other
No formal qualifications
Still studying
Don’t know
18%
10%
22%
20%
6%
6%
17%
1%
0%
Q57.
OCCUPATION OF CHIEF INCOME EARNER;
INTERVIEWER: RECORD OCCUPATION OF CHIEF INCOME EARNER THEN CODE CLASS
BELOW. Position / rank / grade: Qualifications / degrees / apprenticeships: Industry / type of
company: Number of staff responsible for: (PROBE FOR PENSION). SINGLE CODE ONLY
A 3%
B 19%
C1 31%
C2 21%
D 15%
E 11%
Q58.
How would you vote if there were a General Election tomorrow?
Labour 21%
Conservative 16%
UK Independence Party 11%
Green Party 4%
Scottish Nationalist 3%
Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem) 3%
Plaid Cymru 0%
British National Party 0%
Democratic Party 0%
Other 1%
Would not vote 12%
Undecided 31%
Refused 2%
Q59.
Before we complete the survey are there any other comments that you’d like to make about
what we have discussed today or your experiences of flooding?
TO BE ANALYSED
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Acknowledgements for images used in this report.
All images are used under a Creative Commons licence.
The images are taken from Flickr and credits are as follows:
Cheltenham Borough Council
UK Ministry of Defence
David Jones
Poppy
Dachalan
Emilian Robert Vicol
Marcus Böckmann
Links to images used:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/cheltenhamboroughcouncil/1028288437
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dgjones/11749177194
https://www.flickr.com/photos/hddod/866019996/in/photostream/
https:[email protected]/870968613/in/photostream/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/free-stock/6816851232/in/photostream/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwboeckmann/2340986314/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/cheltenhamboroughcouncil/1028237681/in/p
hotostream/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/13761979915/in/photostream/
71