Energy security is an important policy goal for most countries. Here, we show that cross-country differences in concern about energy security across Israel and 22 countries in Europe are explained by energy-specific and general national contextual indicators, over-and-above individual-level factors that reflect population demographics. Specifically, public concerns about import dependency and affordability reflect the specific energy context within countries, such as dependency on energy imports and electricity costs, while higher concerns about the affordability, vulnerability and reliability of energy are associated with higher fossil fuel consumption. More general national context beyond energy also appears to matter; energy security concerns are higher in countries that are doing less well in terms of economic and human well-being. These findings indicate that wider energy, social and economic context influence people’s feelings of vulnerability and sense of security, which may inform the development of effective energy security strategies that assuage public concerns.

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Data availability

The European Social Survey Round 8 data that support the findings of this study are available from http://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/data/. The national indicators are provided in Supplementary Table 2, and can be obtained online from the International Energy Agency (https://www.iea.org/statistics/), the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (http://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/), World Bank (https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (https://data.oecd.org/) and the Sustainable Society Foundation (http://www.ssfindex.com/data-all-countries/).

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The European Social Survey (ESS) is a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). Participating countries contribute to the central coordination costs of the ESS ERIC as well as covering the costs of their own fieldwork and national coordination. The contextual data were collected as part of the Public Attitudes to Welfare, Climate Change and Energy in the EU and Russia (PAWCER) project, funded under the ERA.Net RUS Plus programme (ID: 340).

Author information


  1. Understanding Risk Group, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

    • Christina Demski
    • , Wouter Poortinga
    •  & Lorraine Whitmarsh
  2. Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

    • Wouter Poortinga
  3. Department of Psychosocial Science, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

    • Gisela Böhm
  4. Department of Psychology, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer, Norway

    • Gisela Böhm
  5. Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    • Stephen Fisher
  6. Department of Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

    • Linda Steg
  7. Department of Political Science, University of Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland

    • Resul Umit
  8. Faculty of Management, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

    • Pekka Jokinen
    •  & Pasi Pohjolainen


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C.D. led the writing of the paper. W.P. conducted the data analyses. The first version was drafted by C.D. and W.P. All authors contributed to the writing and revisions of this paper. W.P., S.F., L.W., L.S. and G.B. designed the climate and energy module of European Social Survey Round 8.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Christina Demski.

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