Voters are ready to accept a steep rise in air fares to reduce the environmental damage caused by flying, the annual British social attitudes survey reveals today.
The survey found a big change in levels of public concern about the environment since its researchers began monitoring it in 2004.
Each year, they have asked a representative sample of more than 4,000 people whether they agree or disagree that "the price of a plane ticket should reflect the environmental damage that flying causes, even if it makes air travel much more expensive".
The proportion of those agreeing rose steadily from 36% in 2004 to 49% in the most recent survey, in 2007, while those disagreeing fell from 34% to 28%, with the rest undecided.
Analysts from the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR), which conducted the surveys, said: "We found remarkably low levels of opposition to the idea that ticket prices may have to rise in order to offset environmental damage. This remains the case among current flyers as well as non-flyers and holds across the political spectrum."
Conservative supporters expressed less concern than Labour supporters about most environmental issues, but they were slightly more inclined to support higher air fares as a contribution to reducing carbon emissions.
The report was prepared before the government's decision this month to back expansion plans for Heathrow, including a third runway. But the results suggest ministers may have been out of touch with the public's growing environmental concern.
The latest research found 70% of people in Britain agreed that air travel has a serious effect on climate change. But people were ambivalent about whether there should be curbs on flying.
When asked a straight question, 63% said people should be able to travel by aeroplane "as much as they like". This fell to 19% when they were asked the same question with the extra words "even if it harms the environment".
To test the true level of people's green ideals, the researchers asked who would be willing to pay higher fares. They found 46% of frequent flyers making three or more trips by air each year think the price of a ticket should reflect environmental damage, compared with 50% of non-flyers.
The report concluded: "There are a number of factors working in favour of policies designed to reduce the environmental impact of air travel. First, it appears that the growth in passenger numbers had stalled before 2008's double whammy of higher fuel prices and an economic downturn. Coupled with this is, secondly, the growing concern by the public about the effect of air travel on climate change."
Andrew Shaw, research group director at NCSR, said: "Most [people] want to fly and probably would rather not pay more. Yet we have found only low levels of opposition to the prospect of a steep rise in air fares in order to reflect the environmental damage caused by air travel. This suggests that higher air fares may well not be widely resisted by the public."
NHS: Satisfaction with medical services at 25 year high
Voters are more enthusiastic about the service provided by the NHS than at any time since 1984, the social attitudes survey found. One in two people (51%) said they were satisfied with the NHS, compared with 34% in 1997 when Labour came to power and 42% in 2000 when the government embarked on a programme of health service reform.
The report concluded: "It is hard to resist the conclusion that massively increased NHS spending over the last seven years, enabling [the service] to increase its staffing considerably and ... reduce waiting times to their lowest since the inception of the NHS, must have played a significant part in boosting satisfaction."
The proportion of people saying they were dissatisfied with the NHS fell from 50% in 1997 to 30% in the most recent survey in 2007 - its lowest level since 1984. People with recent personal experience of NHS treatment were more likely to express satisfaction. The most popular part of the health service was general practice. GPs had a 76% satisfaction score, compared with 60% for hospital outpatient services and 49% for inpatient treatment.
The report said patients rated inpatient departments more highly than outpatients until 1993. The two ran neck and neck from 1994 until 2003, when the popularity of inpatients started to plummet. This may have been due to increased public concern about poor infection control. Satisfaction with outpatients increased as waiting times were reduced and patients got more choice of appointment times.
Dentists had a satisfaction rating of 42% - the lowest in the NHS. The score may have reflected problems getting NHS dental treatment in many areas.
John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund and co-author of the NHS chapter of the report, said: "This is a good news story for the NHS ... But NHS experience shows that as one problem or public concern is dealt with, another takes its place."
Devolution: Most English people still back Scottish parliament
A third of people in England (32%) think Scotland gets more than its fair share of government spending, compared with 22% in 2003. And nearly two-thirds (61%) believe that Scottish MPs at Westminster should not be allowed to vote on English legislation, compared with 60% in 2003. But the survey found little evidence of an English backlash against Scottish devolution. Fewer than one in five people in England oppose the existence of a separate Scottish parliament. Only 17% want to have an English parliament and 57% think England should continue to be governed from Westminster.
Respect: A perceived decline, as well as positive experiences
Most people in Britain complain about a general decline in respect and consideration for others. But individuals' personal experiences are much more positive. About 79% say that all or most people they come across in their day-to-day lives treat them with respect. The proportion falls to 68% among 18- to 34-year-olds. Researchers found young people are caught in a double bind. They are least likely to be treated with consideration, but most likely to be blamed as perpetrators of disrespectful and inconsiderate behaviour. The most commonly reported misbehaviour is dropping litter (seen by 59% of people at least once a fortnight), swearing or shouting at a stranger (32%) and deliberate jostling (experienced by 26%).
Welfare: Generous benefits do not make people workshy
An analysis of welfare provision in 13 developed countries found that generous benefits do not make people lazy or workshy. Norway, Sweden and other countries with a generous welfare state have the strongest work ethic. Britain, the US, New Zealand and Australia have the least generous welfare states and the lowest commitment to work. The researchers measured commitment by investigating the extent to which people want to work for its own sake, rather than just for the financial reward. In Britain this work commitment score is higher among women than men and higher among graduates than non-graduates.
Television: We watch it but don't enjoy it - UK's top leisure activity
Watching a lot of television appears to have a link with your health. The survey found 43% of people who watch every day say their health is excellent or "very good", compared with 59% of less frequent viewers. Watching television remains Britain's most common leisure activity, with 91% of people watching several times a week and 74% every day. But only 37% of daily viewers say they get a great deal of enjoyment and 23% say they get none or not much. This compares with the 85% of daily book readers who say they get a great deal of enjoyment from reading. About 52% of adults read a book at least once a week, compared with 51% who take physical exercise and 52% who use a computer.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017