Thanks to Jamie Agombar and the NUS team for alerting me to an analysis of British Social Attitudes survey data carried out by NatCen which found that those with a degree were [i] more likely to feel that they understood the causes of environmental problems and [ii] to disagree that we worry too much about the future of the environment and not enough about prices and jobs today.
Here is some finer detail:
- 55% of those with a degree selected a number at the top of the answer scale when asked how much they felt they know about the causes of environmental problems, compared with 34% of those with A-level qualifications or below degree level HE/FE qualifications, 25% of those with GCSE qualifications and 20% of those without qualifications.
- Levels of concern about environmental issues were highest among those with a degree (70%) and lowest amongst those in the GCSE group (45%).
- The majority of those with a degree level qualification disagreed or disagreed strongly (60%) that we worry too much about the environment, compared to around two-fifths of those with A-levels (41%) and those with below degree level HE/FE qualifications (38%). Around a quarter of those with GCSEs (24%) and 15% of those in the no qualifications group, felt that we worry too much about the environment at the expense of prices and jobs.
- Considering the statement ‘The price of a plane ticket should reflect the environmental damage that flying causes, even if this makes air travel much more expensive’, agreement was highest among those with a degree (56 %) followed by those with A-levels (45%), then those with GCSEs/ below degree level HE/FE qualifications (39 and 38% respectively) and was lowest among those without qualifications (35%).
- Considering the statement ‘For the sake of the environment everyone should reduce how much they use their cars’, levels of agreement were highest among those with degree level qualifications (72%), followed by the A-level group (67%). Those with GCSEs (rather than the no qualification group) showed the lowest levels of agreement at 51%.
- Considering the statement ‘There is no point in reducing my car use to help the environment unless others do the same’, 39% of those with a degree level qualification disagreed or disagreed strongly that there was no point reducing their own car use unless others did the same, compared to 17% of those without qualifications and 16% of those with GCSEs.
What to make of this? Maybe it's fairly simple: That is, awareness, interest, concern, etc tend to correlate with education level – a greater ability to think rationally about issues, to analyse, and to synthesise – and a greater tendency to understand and care about such matters tends to increase with maturity.