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How broad is support for post-growth and post-capitalist ideas: Recent data would suggest its substantial

image credit: on International participants on opening night of 9th Degrowth Conference in Zagreb 2023. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Opening_of_9th_Degrowth_Conference,_MSU,_Zagreb,_August_29_2023.jpeg. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Here is a list of studies, surveys and polling results that shed some light on popular perceptions of post-growth and post-capitalist ideas. I will seek to update this list periodically.

Scientists’ support for post-growth

1. A survey of nearly 800 climate policy researchers around the world found that 73% support post-growth (i.e., agrowth and degrowth) positions. In the EU, 86% of climate policy researchers support post-growth positions. Source: Nature Sustainability (2023). Also see press release: “Green growth loses favour with climate policy scientists”; and a write-up in The Conversation.

2. A survey of nearly 500 sustainability scholars found that 77% call for post-growth pathways in high-income countries (80% call for post-growth in high-income countries after 2030). Source: Ecological Economics (2023). Also see write-up here: “Scientific consensus on post-growth over green growth”.

3. A survey of staff at the German Environment Agency found that 99% of environmental protection specialists indicate an implied preference for growth-critical concepts (post-growth/agrowth/degrowth). 75% express an explicit preference for growth-critical concepts, and specialists with more knowledge of growth-critical concepts are even more likely to prefer them. Source: Journal of Cleaner Production, 2022.

4. A study exploring two survey datasets found that 61% of the Spanish public and 69% of international scientists hold growth-critical positions (agrowth or degrowth), with less than one third of respondents in each survey expressing support for green growth. Source: Ecological Economics, 2019.

Public support for post-growth

1. A survey of people in 34 European countries found that on average 61% are in favour of post-growth. The study also finds that support for post-growth is lower among disadvantaged communities, indicating the need to highlight the key role of redistributive policies that can improve livelihoods and economic security for the working-classes. Source: Futures, 2022.

2. A survey study done by the German Environment Agency found that 88% agree that “we must find ways of living well regardless of economic growth”, and 77% agree that “there are natural limits to growth and we went beyond them”. Source: Umwelt Bundesamt, 2023.

3. Poll shows that 81% of people in Britain believe that the prime objective of the governments should be to secure “the greatest happiness” for people rather than “the greatest wealth”. Source: BBC, 2006.

4. A consumer research study found that 70% of more than 10,000 people surveyed in 29 high-income and middle-income countries believe that “overconsumption is putting our planet and society at risk”. 65% believe that “our society would be better off if people shared more and owned less.” Source: Sustainable Brands, 2014.

Support for post-growth & post-capitalist policies

1. Post-growth and degrowth frameworks call for sufficiency-oriented policies. A study of European citizens’ assemblies found that sufficiency policies enjoy very high approval rates (93%). The study also found that sufficiency objectives achieved through regulatory policies had the highest support. Source: Energy Research and Social Science, 2023.

2. The job guarantee is a central post-growth/degrowth policy, and it is highly popular in polls. In the UK, 72% of people support it. In the US, it’s 78%, and in France it’s 79%. There are few policies that enjoy such widespread support, and research shows it can appeal strongly to working-class voters who otherwise feel alienated from the political process.

Support for post-capitalism

1. A survey of youth climate movement groups found that more than half say that the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis is “a system that puts profit over people and planet”. 89% of this group specified the system as capitalism. Source: Climate Vanguard, 2023.

2. A survey shows that a majority of people around the world (56%) agree with the statement “Capitalism does more harm than good”. In France it is 69%, in India it is 74%. Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2020.

3. A study found that in 28 of 34 countries, a majority of respondents hold anti-capitalist positions. Source: Economic Affairs, 2023.

Attitudes on environment vs. growth

1. Poll shows that 70% of US Americans believe that “environmental protection is more important than economic growth”. Source: Yale Climate Opinion Maps, 2018. Note that Yale has not used this question in more recent climate opinion surveys.

2. Poll shows that substantial majorities of people in 10 of 12 European countries believe that protecting the environment should be made a priority even if it comes at the expense of economic growth. Source: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2019.

3. Gallup poll data shows a majority of respondents believe that environmental protection should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing growth. Source: Gallup, 2023.

4. A review of representative surveys in Europe and the US finds that when people have to choose between growth and environmental protection, environmental protection is prioritized in most surveys and countries. Source: Ecological Economics, 2018.

**Note: these studies are remarkable because respondents are willing to prioritize environment over economic growth even though they may assume that harming growth could have social downsides. It is reasonable to expect that, if respondents were informed that post-growth policy can improve social outcomes, support for these statements may be even stronger.

Jason Hickel
Jason Hickel

Dr. Jason Hickel is an economic anthropologist, author, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  He is Professor at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Visiting Senior Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics, and Chair Professor of Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo. He is Associate Editor of the journal World Development, and serves on the Climate and Macroeconomics Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, the Statistical Advisory Panel for the UN Human Development Report, the advisory board of the Green New Deal for Europe, the Harvard-Lancet Commission on Reparations and Redistributive Justice, and the Lancet Commission on Sustainable Health.

Jason’s research focuses on global political economy, inequality, and ecological economics, which are the subjects of his two most recent books: The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions (Penguin, 2017), and Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (Penguin, 2020), which was listed by the Financial Times and New Scientist as a book of the year.

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