AA Populus Panel

Members blame the government for fuel prices

24 June 2008

filling up with petrol

Three quarters of AA members do not think that any of the three main political parties are "motorist friendly".

A majority of AA members say that their priority as a Transport Minister would be to cut or freeze fuel tax.

Almost half (49%) believe that the Government is most responsible for the rise in fuel prices.

Two thirds say they will vote for a different government if the price of fuel rises to between 125 – 149 p per litre.

These are the latest results from 18,500 AA members from the AA Populus panel, the biggest dedicated motoring panel in the UK.

If I were Minister of Transport

AA panel members selected the following policies to prioritise if they were Minister for Transport:

  1. Decrease petrol tax (49%)
  2. Make public transport cheaper (25%)
  3. Penalise gas guzzlers (8%)
  4. Never introduce toll roads (4%)
  5. Freeze petrol tax (3%)
  6. Introduce road tolls (1%)

The results indicate that cost is the major consideration whether it is the cost of fuel or indeed public transport. Members showed practically no support for increasing motoring taxation and only 1% felt road tolls would help.

Motorist friendly

When asked to select the "most motorist-friendly political party" three quarters of members opted for none of the main three parties or felt that they did not know. The results indicate that positive policies which please the motoring public might still sway the 75% who do not think any party is helpful to the motorist.

Fuel prices - who's to blame?

The Government seems to carry the can for the recent record fuel prices. When asked which of the following is most responsible for the rise in fuel prices, the results were:

  1. The Government (49%)
  2. Oil producing countries (22%)
  3. Oil companies (20%)
  4. Petrol stations (0%)
  5. None of these/other (8%)

These results suggest that motorists are aware of the high level of fuel duty and hence blame the government even though most of the recent increase in cost has come since the Government's two pence per litre increase in fuel duty last October. If the Government goes ahead with a further 2p increase this October then their negative rating on this issue is likely to increase.

Who benefits most?

Panellists were asked who is benefiting most in terms of profit from the high price of fuel.

  • The Government (55%)
  • Oil Companies (30%)
  • Oil producing countries (13%)

Again the majority feel that the Government is benefitting most from high prices and almost 50% believe the government is to blame. Hence it would appear that some of the Government's current unpopularity is clearly linked to the high cost of fuel.

If prices rise to.....

Most worrying for Government is the finding that 63% of panellists say that they would start active protests if the price of petrol and diesel rises to certain levels, just over a third would never protest. In fact 65% say that they would vote for a different government if the cost of petrol and diesel rises to between 125p – 149p per litre. Currently diesel is at 131p per litre.

  • Less than 125p (9% protest / 38% vote for different government)
  • 125-149p (19% protest / 27% vote for a different government)
  • 150-174p (19% protest /12% vote for a different government)
  • 175-199p (7% protest / 3% vote for a different government)
  • More than 200p (9% protest / 4% vote for a different government)
  • Whatever cost (36% never protest / 15% never vote for a different government)

AA comment

Commenting, Edmund King AA president said, "These results suggest that motorists have little faith in politicians to deliver motoring-friendly policies. There is a vacuum on issues that affect the majority of voters. This is on a range of issues including fuel prices, taxation, and road maintenance. Whoever grabs the turf convincingly will gain advantage at the ballot box.

"Despite massive increases in the global cost of oil, motorists still blame the Government. Two thirds of motorists indicate that if fuel costs continue to rise to between 125p – 149p per litre then they will vote with their wheels against the Government.

"The Chancellor needs to act now to alleviate the fears of motorists. He should immediately abandon the threatened 2p increase in duty, set up a fuel price regulator and examine innovative ways of stabilising prices."

Regional results

  • Motorists in Scotland were more likely to blame the government for the high cost of fuel.
  • London motorists were less likely to vote for another government as fuel prices go up.
  • West country motorists were most likely to vote for another government if prices increased.
  • Welsh motorists were most likely to start active protests if the price of fuel rose to 175-199p per litre.
  • West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside motorists were more likely to cut petrol tax if they were Transport minister.
  • North East motorists were most likely to penalise gas guzzlers.
  • Motorists in the South and London were most likely to make public transport cheaper.
  • Males were more likely to start an active protest than females.


Populus received 18,547 responses from AA members to its online poll between May 23 and 2 June 2008. The AA Populus panel has more than 30,000 members.

AA Public Affairs - the voice of UK motorists


24 June 2008