On the Guardian website Damian Carrington claims that the “public overwhelmingly supports” onshore wind power. As evidence he links to a poll comparing public attitudes to wind farms with those to shale, which seems slightly besides the point. So what polling does exist?
The only long term polling I know of public attitudes to wind power is one done by yougov on behalf of EdF. They asked the following:
There are various kinds of power station that could be built to contribute to filling the energy gap. For each type of power station, please say whether you would support or oppose it being built.
There’s certainly a lot to quibble with over the wording, for example it doesn’t get at how much onshore or offshore windfarms people would support. But as indications of long term trends, the question is probably good enough. These are the results for onshore and offshore wind (I’ve coloured onshore green and offshore blue). [EdF ran the poll twice in 2011 because being in the nuclear business meant Fukushima was bad news.]
It’s clear that there has been a big drop in public support for both onshore and offshore. Let’s look closely at the differences between attitudes in 2008 and 2012.
Both onshore and offshore wind have seen declines in support of about 15% in the last 4 years. What is interesting is that their declines in support are almost identical. Offshore wind consistently gets 10-11% more support than onshore wind.
Now, let’s see how onshore wind compares with nuclear (I’ll colour nuclear yellow)
Other than the brief drop due to Fukushima, nuclear support has been fairly stable. What’s more striking is that if trends continue onshore wind likely will soon have less support than nuclear power.
Now, let’s bring another table out. Estimates of the cost of various sources of low carbon power from the Committee on Climate Change.
Now, again we can quibble about the details. However very few would honestly argue that onshore wind and nuclear power are not the two cheapest low carbon options here. Despite this, opinion polls show that Offshore Wind, Solar, Tidal and Wave are all more popular. And this is a far more ideal situation.