Wind power most popular source of energy in UK

Half of respondents to national survey would welcome a new wind farm within five miles of their home.

Wind power is the most popular source in the UK, according to an exclusive survey of attitudes towards the energy market carried out on behalf of the Guardian.

A study of more than 2,000 people across incomes and political allegiances found that windfarms would be the most welcomed form of power source, as plans are made to develop new energy capacity in the UK. Almost half of respondents (48%) said an onshore windfarm would receive positive reception if it was developed within five miles of their home.

By contrast, only a fifth could say the same for a new coal powered station, and just 27% said a new nuclear power station would be welcomed in their area. Fracking garnered the least support: 19% of respondents said development of this new technology would receive a positive local reception.

Support for wind power was high among supporters of all parties, though enthusiasm for onshore wind was lowest among those who identified themselves as Conservative (39%, compared with 56% among Labour voters and 45% for those who said they were aligned with Ukip).

The survey results come as government data revealed there had been a sharp rise in the percentage of onshore windfarm applications being rejected. Rejections across the UK jumped from 25-29% in 2009-12 to 41% in 2013. Communities secretary Eric Pickles has told planners to give greater weight to local concerns over windfarm applications, claiming “current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locally-led planning system”.

The Conservative party has pledged to drop subsidies for new onshore wind turbines if elected with an overall majority in 2015. And despite evidence that support is generally widespread, Pickles has taken 35 wind power planning appeals out of the hands of the planning inspectorate since last June, refusing eight and approving two so far, and opening his party up to criticism of “heavy-handed intervention”.

The Guardian study, carried out by Harris Interactive during April 2014, revealed that support was even higher for offshore wind, with more than half (55%) saying they believed it would be welcomed (though all respondents were open to answer this question, regardless of their location).

Despite a bitter debate between central and local government politicians, 40% of voters say they “neither support nor oppose” fracking for shale gas in the UK. Just 8% say they “very much support” the policy, compared with the 18% who “very much oppose” it.

Only a third (32%) said energy prices had an influence on their voting intentions, despite the fact that the majority (81%) said they were concerned about the rise in the cost of energy. This ranked highest among concerns about the energy market, above cutting carbon emissions (52%) and the possibility of power cuts (51%).

Despite being among the cheapest in Europe, 71% said they perceived UK energy prices as unreasonable. Two-thirds of respondents believed that UK prices were higher than the global averages, and higher than other EU countries. Due to fears about rising prices, two-thirds said they were willing to consume less electricity during peak times.