Just Stop Oil stunt 'made people care less about climate change'

Activists throwing soup over a Van Gogh painting turned people off climate change action - PA
Activists throwing soup over a Van Gogh painting turned people off climate change action - PA

Green protests in which activists blocked roads and threw soup over a Van Gogh artwork turned people off climate change action, a new survey has found.

The soup stunt by activists from the Just Stop Oil group, and roadblocks of the M25 by Insulate Britain had more than 50 per cent disapproval in a study of 3,000 people conducted last year by Opinium.

Both protests increased support for the view that “climate action will do nothing but make us all colder and poorer”, the survey found.

Roadblocks by Just Stop Oil were also found to be ineffective at winning people over, and left over-40s less willing to take action on climate change.

The roadblocks, which began in 2021, were met with anger by drivers and members of the public and prompted the Government to introduce new police powers to deter them.

Participants in the survey were split into groups and shown videos of five different climate protest actions, and their views compared to a control group who were not shown anything.

The most successful in boosting support for climate change action were protests by group Extinction Rebellion in 2019, and paint attacks on Government buildings by Just Stop Oil last year.

Both left participants more likely to say the Government should do more to combat climate change, and more willing to take action themselves.

The survey was commissioned by Steve Akehurst, a climate campaigner, who said the Van Gogh protest and Insulate Britain’s road blocks had “failed”.

Speculating on the reasons, he said “the first was a target that probably appeared random to most people; the second marred by scenes of dispute with ordinary members of the public.”

Earlier this year Extinction Rebellion said it would change its tactics away from roadblocks and public disruption to focus on more “collective” protest action.

“Because successful and influential stunts are genuinely hard to pull off, activists (understandably) occasionally fall-back on the idea that, basically, all publicity is good publicity,” said Mr Akehurst. “If there’s one thing this experiment proves, it’s that that this isn’t true.”