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Public Attitudes to Biodiversity in the North East

In late 2007 the North East Biodiversity Forum commissioned Marketwise Strategies to carry out research into public attitudes towards biodiversity in the North East.  This is the first time that such research has been carried out on a regional basis.

As part of the the research almost 1000 people from across the North East were interviewed. Those who took part were a respresentative sample of the region's population.  A copy of the final report can be downloaded here along with an appendix of open-ended responses.

The main findings of the report were:

  • Considerably fewer respondents can recall the term biodiversity compared to other environmental terms.  Only 9% could, unprompted, give a correct definition of the term.
  • There was considerable confusion amongst respondents as to the meaning of biodiversity. When asked to chose one of four possible meanings of the term 33% of respondents confused it with ‘biodegradability’ and only 31% correctly understood that biodiversity referred to the variety of living things.
  • There is a positive attitude towards the natural environment but in a largely passive way. People are less inclined to think about biodiversity or believe they can help stop the loss of biodiversity.
  • Over half of respondents believe biodiversity has practical benefits and many of these could provide valid comments in support of this opinion.
  • The North East’s coastline is considered to be a particularly important natural asset – by two fifths of the sample.
  • Few respondents (11%) were satisfied that their local authority was doing everything it should to protect and enhance biodiversity.
  • People most frequently visit natural areas close to towns, and most likely, near where they live. However, over half of respondents had visited a large, wild open space, e.g. Kielder Forest, within the last six months.
  • Respondents were more likely to interact with the environment at home, with 73% having watched a TV programme about nature in the past month.
  • Those living in rural areas appeared more aware of the term biodiversity but urban dwellers provided responses that were more positive towards the natural environment.
  • Respondents aged 35 to 74, particularly those aged 55 to 64, demonstrated better awareness of and more concern for the natural environment. Respondents with a higher socio-economic status (A and B, compared with D and E) consistently illustrated a better understanding of and concern for environmental terminology and issues. They were also more likely to interact with the natural environment.