Political ideology affects energy-efficiency

When it comes to deciding which light bulb to buy, a label touting the product’s environmental benefit may actually discourage politically conservative shoppers.

Dena Gromet and Howard Kunreuther at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Rick Larrick at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business conducted two studies to determine how political ideology affected a person’s choice to buy energy-efficient products in the United States…

The operand being “in the United States” – where reactionary ideology trumps sense.

“A popular strategy for marketing energy efficiency is to focus on its environmental benefits,” said Gromet, the lead author on the studies. “But not everyone values protecting the environment. We were interested in whether promoting the environment could in fact deter some individuals from purchasing energy efficient options that they would have otherwise selected.”

In the first study…the more conservative the participant, the less likely that person was to support investing in energy-efficient technology. The study found that this divide was primarily driven by the lower value that conservatives placed on reducing carbon emissions. The values of energy independence and reducing energy costs had more universal appeal…

In the second study…a CFL bulb was priced at $1.50, while the incandescent bulb was 50 cents. When the more expensive CFL came with no environmental label, liberals and conservatives selected it at roughly the same high frequency. However, when the more expensive CFL bulb also was accompanied by a “protect the environment” sticker, participants who identified as more politically moderate or conservative were less likely to buy it…

“The environmental aspect of energy efficiency has an ideologically polarizing impact that can undermine demand for energy-efficient technology, specifically among more politically conservative individuals,” Kunreuther said…

“These findings demonstrate that a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful for making energy-efficient products appealing to consumers,” Larrick said.

Simply relying on educated self-interest is a mistake when trying to market products concerned with energy and environment. For many conservatives – many American conservatives that is – stupidity turns a simple economic choice into a conflict with quasi-religious dogma.

3 thoughts on “Political ideology affects energy-efficiency

  1. Ryan Vande Water says:

    “Conservative” no longer has any real meaning. We need some new word for quasi-religious dogmatics… because they clearly do not behave in a “conservative” manner.

    • eideard says:

      I joke about having to say “proper football” – which everyone else in the world knows is football except Americans who persist in saying soccer.

      I find myself having to qualify my political conversations the same way – by saying “traditional American conservative” so folks know I’m not talking about the nutballs who pass themselves off as representing what historically has been a specific current in American politics.

      They truly are an embarrassment.

  2. Kanerva says:

    Perhaps the marketing should focus on the potential wallet savings. I don’t know anyone who would complain or negatively change their behaviour if a product saved them money!

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