92% of the public favours funding public transport over motorway spending – B&A poll

— 68% of people said they “strongly support” favouring public transport.

92% of respondents surveyed in a representative poll said that they favoured funding public transport over motorway spending, according to a poll conducted by Behaviours & Attitudes.

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The poll was conducted for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and mainly looked at the public’s perception of climate change and the support for climate action.

According to the EPA, a question which asked about “increased Government investment in public transport, such as trains, instead of motorways” resulted in 68% of people saying that they “strongly support” favouring public transport over motorways funding and 24% said that they “somewhat support” given priority to public transport spending.

The poll result was released today but the survey was conducted in 2021, well before the recent Government in-fighting over the spending on roads vs public transport. In recent months some members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have more sharply taken issue with the Programme for Government commitment, secured Green Party, on the spending on public transport over roads.

The Programme for Government states: “In relation to new transport infrastructure, the Government is committed to a 2:1 ratio of expenditure between new public transport infrastructure and new roads over its lifetime. This ratio will be maintained in each Budget by the Government. In the event of an underspend on roads, this will not impact on public transport spending.”

The EPA released two reports today — Climate Change in the Irish Mind Wave 1 Insight Report 1, and Report Wave 1 Insight Report 2.

The survey results found that grants to encourage residential and commercial building owners to install greener heating systems and grants to make electric vehicles more affordable also both gained very high support at 96% and 92% respectively.

But the banning of peat, coal and oil for home heating purposes while gaining a majority of support, it was a much lower level (68%), as was the idea of higher taxes on cars that use petrol and diesel (64%). The EPA said that opposition to such measures was around practical issues of people making the switch to cleaner ways to power their homes and transport.

EPA said that there was a low level of climate denial in Ireland and more generally said that there are “Four Irelands” when it comes to climate change — 36% of people who are ‘Alarmed’, 48% ‘Concerned’, 12% ‘Cautious and just 3% ‘Doubtful’.

Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence & Assessment said: “This assessment indicates that the majority of people in Ireland support climate policies. People who oppose climate policies are not, however, climate deniers and opposition does not appear to be reflective of underlying concerns or suspicions around climate change. Rather, it appears to be specific to localised concerns and issues which must be addressed to enact major climate change policies.”

Dr Conor Quinlan, senior manager in the Office of Evidence and Assessment said: “Age is the biggest factor in determining how concerned people are about climate change. The youngest adults, 18-24 years, consistently exhibit significantly higher levels of concern and risks perceptions in relation to climate, with young women disproportionately concerned about climate change.”

He added: “And unlike some groups, they act on these concerns: young people’s consumer choices and purchasing patterns reflect their perception of climate change as a major risk.”

The EPA said that the fieldwork for the telephone-based opinion poll was conducted from May to July 2021 by the survey company Behaviours & Attitudes “following a recognised industry standard” using a representative sample of Irish people, aged 18 years and over.

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