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The distribution and dynamics of UK citizens’ environmental attitudes, behaviours and actions

This research project has been completed. Please contact a team member for further information.

The distribution and dynamics of UK citizens’ environmental attitudes, behaviours and actions is a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. It uses Understanding Society, to analyse the environmental attitudes, behaviours, and actions of people living in the UK.

The research aims to provide policy makers seeking to legislate for and to encourage ‘environmentally-friendly’ attitudes and behaviours with a clearer understanding of what factors in people’s lives influence and shape how green they are in what they think and what they do.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change aims to reduce UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050. To achieve this, people living in the UK will have to radically and permanently change their behaviour to use significantly less carbon-intensive products and services and to reduce overall energy demand

Energy overuse at the national level is both a direct and an indirect result of the millions of decisions made in homes across the UK. Directly through things like household energy and transport choices (how much gas and electricity we use, whether we take the car or travel by public transport) and indirectly through the consumption of goods and services provided by the industrial and service sectors.

Until now, the almost total absence of large-scale longitudinal data in this field means that we know very little about the way in which attitudes, behaviours and actions change over time in the context of changes in a household, changes such as retirement, moving house, the birth of a child or the introduction of new ‘green’ technologies.

This project aims to see how these events and changes shape and influence environmental attitudes and actions.

Data and methods

Understanding Society is the first large scale (about 90,000 people in 40,000 households) multipurpose survey which includes a large amount of data on individual and household characteristics, labour market behaviour, individual and household income, together with data on environmental and other attitudes and behaviours.

The researchers will combine information from this rich study with other relevant data sources to develop a set of multi-dimensional ‘environmental attitudes and behaviour’ indicators and use these to analyse:

  • the factors affecting pro(anti)environmental attitudes and behaviour
  • how households differ in their pro-environmental behaviour and energy use
  • how environmental attitudes correlate with the level of energy use in the household
  • identify household types with the smallest/largest discrepancies between the two as a basis for nuanced policy analysis

What the researchers will do

The research team will:

  • analyse similarities in pro-environmental behaviours across household members, including children
  • identify the key factors influencing the overall environmental behaviour/impact of the household
  • investigate the impact of changing family structure, changing economic conditions and changes in the local environment (neighbourhood or region) on energy use
  • explore the impact of environmental ‘events’ and media coverage of those events on attitudes and behaviours e.g. University of East Anglia’s ‘climate-gate’ and of the yearly climate summits

In addition, the researchers will explore the possibility of linking the Understanding Society data to the Department of Energy and Climate Change national household energy consumption (NEED) data to provide a unique dataset for future use.

Team members

Dr Simonetta Longhi

Associate Professor - University of Manchester

Simonetta is a Research Fellow at ISER and the Principal Investigator on the project. As well as being interested in environmental behaviour, attitudes and impact, her other research interests are in the determinants and impact of national and international migration, wage gaps and socio-economic integration of minority groups, unemployment and on-the-job search.

Professor Peter Lynn

Professor of Survey Methodology - ISER

Peter is Professor of Survey Methodology at ISER and a key member of the scientific team behind Understanding Society.

Ben Anderson

Senior Research Fellow - University of Southampton

Ben is co-investigator on the project. His main research interest is the relationship between social practices and infrastructural change with a particular focus on social communication, resource (energy, water) consumption, micro-social resilience and sustainable living.

Latest Blog

How green are we?

Listen to Simonetta Longhi talking about what the project involves in this podcast.

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