This report contains the findings from a quantitative study exploring public perceptions of climate change in Scotland, among adults aged 18 and above and young people aged 14-17. This research was conducted by BMG Research on behalf of the Scottish Government.
In September 2019, the Scottish Government passed legislation which committed Scotland to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030. In recognition of the need for more ambitious action to meet these more ambitious targets, in December 2020, the Scottish Government published an update to the Climate Change Plan 2018-2032, which outlines policies and proposals to achieve the new 2030 target and, ultimately, net zero emissions.
Achieving Scotland's emissions targets will require substantial changes to society. This will only be possible with understanding, participation, and action from people across Scotland. In September 2021, the Scottish Government published 'Net Zero Nation' – a five-year Public Engagement Strategy for Climate Change (PES). The PES sets out the Scottish Government's vision that everyone in Scotland recognises the implication of the global climate emergency, fully understands and contributes to Scotland's response, and embraces their role in the transition to a net zero and climate ready Scotland.
The PES is structured around three key pillars:
- Understand – people are aware of the action that all of Scotland is taking to tackle climate change and understand how it relates to their lives
- Participate – people actively participate in shaping just, fair and inclusive policies that promote mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
- Act – taking action on climate change is normalised and encouraged in households, communities and places across Scotland
1.2 Research objectives
BMG was commissioned to conduct a representative survey of the Scottish public exploring current attitudes and behaviours as they relate to each of the three key pillars of the PES.
The findings from this research will be used to help monitor changes in Scottish public attitudes and behaviours over the lifetime of the PES.
1.3.1 Survey design
The survey included questions on: awareness of the Scottish Government net zero targets and climate policies (Understand); experiences of and attitudes to participating in policy and decision making relating to climate change (Participate); and understanding of the actions that are needed to tackle climate change, and instances of these actions being taken or planned at an individual, household or community level (Act).
The survey was designed to answer each of the research questions, with three different sections to explore each of the three key pillars outlined above. The majority of questions were designed to be single response questions for ease of the respondent. The survey includes two ranking questions and some multiple response questions where appropriate.
Questions were ordered to minimize the impact of influencing responses – i.e. broader and higher-level questions which required less prior knowledge were asked first, with more complicated questions, sometimes provided with definitions of key terms, asked later in the survey.
Two versions of the survey were created, one for adults aged 16 and above and one for young people aged 14 and 15. The young person questionnaire was tailored so that questions that were not relevant to young people were not asked. However, changes between the two versions were minimal, allowing the data to be merged and treated as one wider dataset of respondents aged 14+ for the vast majority of survey questions.
The survey took approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.
Fieldwork took place between the 21st March and 3rd April 2022. A total of 1,782 respondents completed the survey. This included:
- 1,502 respondents aged 18+
- 280 respondents aged 14-17
1.3.2 Recruitment of participants
Adult participants (aged 16 years and above) were recruited using online panels, with representative quotas set on age, gender and region. A 'panel blend' approach was taken to fieldwork. This involves blending the sample across a number of research panels to increase the potential overall sample size, help ensure good coverage across key demographic groups, and to reduce the risk of panel biases that can sometimes occur by relying solely on a single panel provider. The panels used for this project were:
- Made in Surveys
- YouthSight – youth specialist, used to reach those aged 16 and 17
Young people below the age of 16 were recruited via their parents/guardians, with consent taken before the survey was completed. Once the initial adult component was completed, and the adult answered some basic demographic questions about their child, the survey was handed over to the young person to complete the main body of the questionnaire.
The survey data used for this report is weighted to ensure the data is representative of the Scottish population aged 14+.
Results for respondents aged 14-17 were weighted by age, gender and region. Results for those aged 18+ were also weighted by these variables, with the addition of targets for ethnicity and educational attainment.
To ensure an adequate sample size for sub-group analysis, respondents aged 14-17 years old were purposefully oversampled. However, age weighting ensures that the total sample is not skewed as the proportion of those aged 14-17 is adjusted to be representative.
Unweighted and weighted response counts by region, age and gender and some other metrics are presented in the sample profile in the Appendix.
1.3.4 Presentation of results
Throughout the report, results are discussed in terms of differences between sub-groups and the total result. Differences are considered to be significant at the 95% confidence level, meaning that there is only a 5% possibility that the difference occurred by chance rather than by being a real difference. This is a commonly accepted level of confidence.
The data used in this report are rounded up or down to the nearest whole percentage. It is for this reason that, on occasion, tables or charts may add up to 99% or 101%. Results that do differ in this way should not have a sum-total deviance that is larger than around 1 to 2%.
All differences highlighted in this report are statistically significant unless stated otherwise.
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