Poll: Americans Shop With Climate on Their Minds

organic girl
Shopper considers organic produce (Photo by Jen)


NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, June 21, 2013 (ENS) – Half of all Americans consider environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to buy a product at least occasionally, according to a new nationally representative survey on attitudes toward climate change conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

For the survey, 1,045 adults over 18 years old were polled in April. Pollsters said there was a total average margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The research was funded by the Surdna Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Grantham Foundation, and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation.

At least four in 10 of those polled said they “often” or “occasionally” bought food grown or produced locally (69 percent) or organic food (42 percent) in the past 12 months.

organic girl
New York shopper considers organic produce (Photo by Jen)

Eight in 10 told pollsters that they intend to buy locally grown or produced food and six in 10 intend to buy organic food in the next 12 months.

Asked if, the next time they make a purchase, they intend to buy specific energy-efficient items, majorities of those polled said they will buy an energy-efficient kitchen appliance (75 percent), home water heater (71 percent), home air conditioner (68 percent), or home furnace (67 percent).

Six in 10 say the next time they buy a car, it will average 30 miles or more per gallon (61 percent).

With the exception of using energy-efficient compact florescent light bulbs – which has become the norm – the number of Americans who are taking a variety of energy saving actions at home and on the road has remained relatively stable over the past five years, according to the survey report.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs continue to be adopted by American consumers, with 53 percent of respondents reporting that most or all of the light bulbs in their homes are CFLs – up from 40 percent in November 2008.

Three in 10 respondents (28 percent) said that, in the past 12 months, they have rewarded companies taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products.

About one in five (21 percent) also said that in the past 12 months they have punished companies opposing steps to reduce global warming by not purchasing their products.

Minneapolis hardware store owner helps a shopper select a compact fluorescent light bulb (Photo by Michelle Vigan of Wakefield Photography / Clean Energy Resource Teams)

In the past 12 months, one in four of those surveyed say they discussed what they see as a company’s irresponsible environmental behavior with friends or family. One in 10 has spread information about offending companies via the Internet.

Further, nearly four out of 10 respondents (38 percent) say that they would be willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to do “the right thing” about global warming.

Over the past 12 months, five to 10 percent of those surveyed have “often” or “occasionally” signed a petition about global warming (10 percent); shared information about global warming on Facebook or Twitter (7 percent); donated money to an organization working on global warming (7 percent); donated money to a political candidate because he or she shares the respondent’s views on global warming (6 percent); posted a comment online in response to a news story or blog about global warming (6 percent); or written letters, emailed, or phoned a newspaper about global warming (5 percent).

Five percent of respondents have volunteered time to elect a political candidate because he or she shares their views on global warming.

Views on the issue of global warming vary across the United States, and this climate change report identifies six different groups within the public that share similar beliefs, attitudes and behaviors about climate change.

What the researchers call the “Six Americas” do not vary much by age, gender, race or income; there are members of every demographic group in each of the segments. They range instead by global-warming beliefs, concerns and issue engagement, from the Alarmed to the Dismissive.

The three largest groups – the Alarmed, Concerned and Cautious – currently include roughly two-thirds of the American public. Although they range in certainty about the reality and dangers of climate change, they are all inclined to believe it is a real threat that should be addressed.

climate protest

Some of the 35,000 people who marched by the White House calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in a protest organized by Sierra Club and 350.org, February 17, 2013. (Photo by Rick Reinhard)

Thus, concludes the report “some level of support for action is the predominant view among the majority of Americans.”

The Alarmed (16 percent) are certain global warming is occurring, understand that it is human-caused and harmful, and strongly support societal action to reduce the threat. They discuss the issue more often, seek more information about it, and are more likely to act as global warming opinion leaders than the other segments. They are the most likely of the six groups to have engaged in political activism on the issue, although only about a quarter have done so.

The Concerned (26 percent) are moderately certain global warming is occurring, harmful, and human-caused. They tend to view global warming as a threat to other nations and future generations, but not as a personal threat or a threat to their community. They support societal action on climate change, but are unlikely to have engaged in political activism.

The Cautious (25 percent) are likely to believe climate change is real – but are not certain. Many do not know the cause of global warming. They are less worried than the Concerned and tend to view global warming as a distant threat. They have given little thought to the issue and are unlikely to have strongly held opinions about what, if anything, should be done it.

The Disengaged (5 percent) have given the issue of global warming little to no thought. They have no strongly held beliefs about global warming, know little about it, and do not view it as having any personal relevance. They tend to have the lowest education and income levels of the six groups.

The Doubtful (15 percent), however, are uncertain whether global warming is occurring or not. If they believe that it is happening, they are likely to attribute it to natural causes rather than human activities. They tend to be politically conservative and to hold traditional religious views.

The Dismissive (13 percent), are certain that global warming is not occurring, tend to regard the issue as a hoax and are strongly opposed to action to reduce the threat.

“An important change over time,” the report says, “is that fewer people now believe that individual actions can substantially limit global warming – even if taken by the majority of people in all developed countries.”

The Alarmed are the most confident that actions by themselves (55 percent), people in the United States (86 percent), and modern industrialized societies (91 percent) can reduce global warming, followed by the Concerned.

Solid majorities of the Dismissive told pollsters that such actions would have “no effect.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.

Continue Reading