Study finds political ideology impacts decision-making regarding energy-efficient products

( —Two researchers from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and another from Duke University in North Carolina together have found that a person's political ideology might impact his or her decision-making when purchasing products described as good for the environment, versus, money saving. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes two field studies they conducted to better understand the issues involved and the results they found.

In the first study, 657 people (divided roughly in half by gender) were asked to fill out a questionnaire that was designed to reveal the person's political leanings as well as their energy-saving product purchasing habits. In analyzing the answers given by the participants, the researchers found a trend that suggested that the more conservative a person's , the less favorably they saw products advertised as environmentally friendly. Those with such leanings tended to claim they were more likely to buy such products, however, if they were instead advertised as money saving investments. Conversely, those with more liberal leanings tended to be more receptive towards buying products solely because they believed they would help solve .

In the second study, 210 volunteers were interviewed and then given $2 each to purchase a light bulb. The light bulbs offered for sale were either "normal" or an energy efficient variety (with a higher price.) The higher priced bulbs were identical but were advertised in two different ways: one made claims about how the was good for the planet, the other claimed to save the buyer money by using less electricity. The researchers found those with more conservative views were less inclined to buy the special bulbs when the labeling touted its planet-saving features. When it was labeled as a money-saver however, conservatives were quite willing to buy them. Those with a more liberal view were found willing to buy the special bulb regardless of which advertising was used. In another variant of the study, the researchers found that both conservatives and liberals bought the special bulb over the "normal" bulb if they were priced the same.

The researchers suggest that those people in the study with conservative ideology were not necessarily against buying so-called green products, but have been conditioned to associate such terms with liberalism, and thus, shy away from products labeled as such. Because of this, the researchers suggest those that market such look towards creating new phrases that aren't tied to one group or another when making their pitches.

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Name-brand or generic? Your political ideology might influence your choice

More information: Political ideology affects energy-efficiency attitudes and choices, PNAS, Published online before print April 29, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1218453110

This research demonstrates how promoting the environment can negatively affect adoption of energy efficiency in the United States because of the political polarization surrounding environmental issues. Study 1 demonstrated that more politically conservative individuals were less in favor of investment in energy-efficient technology than were those who were more politically liberal. This finding was driven primarily by the lessened psychological value that more conservative individuals placed on reducing carbon emissions. Study 2 showed that this difference has consequences: In a real-choice context, more conservative individuals were less likely to purchase a more expensive energy-efficient light bulb when it was labeled with an environmental message than when it was unlabeled. These results highlight the importance of taking into account psychological value-based considerations in the individual adoption of energy-efficient technology in the United States and beyond.

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Citation: Study finds political ideology impacts decision-making regarding energy-efficient products (2013, April 30) retrieved 25 August 2019 from
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Apr 30, 2013
My take on the conservative/liberal categorization.

Both sides are solving the same basic existential problem.
That of being alone and helpless in an uncaring random universe.

1 Liberals trust society and believe in the social contract and their fellow mans help in time of need.

2 Conservatives believe wealth and power and influence can be brought to bear in a market oriented situation in time of need.

Apr 30, 2013
Progressives, since they follow the religion of their High Priest Al Gore, will pay more for an identical product if it is more expensive and labelled green. Conservatives realize that Progressives lie and know that most items labeled green are actually not better for the environment.

Apr 30, 2013
This article is obvious, of course political ideology is going to impact decision making in ANY aspect of life...

Political ideologies are inspired by ones beliefs, and surprisingly ones beliefs dictate ones decisions...

Stop wasting your readers' time, post actual discoveries, please.

Apr 30, 2013
My take away from this is that this was a marketing study with an aim toward how to market to each political group. Personally, I look beyond any product's marketing claims as most products are marketed in such a way as to appeal to potential buyers even if that means bending the actual capabilities of a product beyond reality.

From that aspect, I think anyone who is interested in buying a product should keep in mind that there are product makers out there that will tell you anything, even if untrue, to sell you their product.

As I see it, the research in this article points out to marketers how to potentially take advantage of a person's political leanings in addition to the usual things like sex, self-image, how much of a man or woman you are, etc.

Apr 30, 2013
There is no surprise here. I would have been astounded if the survey had turned out differently. All you need to see is the voting in Washington D.C. The politicians represent their constituencies.

Apr 30, 2013
"promoting the environment can negatively affect adoption of energy efficiency in the United States "
The 'adopting' really means the 'progressives' will use a gun (force) to impose what they consider to be efficient.
Rockefeller used the market to make kerosene more efficiently than his competition, providing that product at the lowest cost.
People will buy the most cost effective products for their use if they are not forced.
"more expensive energy-efficient light bulb when it was labeled with an environmental message"
Now the LEDs bulbs are causing fires and fluorescents have poisonous Hg.

Apr 30, 2013
"Government can efficiently affect energy usage through fuel taxes and basic research. When it intervenes on behalf of specific technologies and specific companies, however, bad things happen — resource misallocation, windfall-seeking, even, sometimes, corruption. The Fisker debacle proves once again that, in the immortal words of former White House economist Larry Summers, "government is a crappy VC.""

Apr 30, 2013
Cut off the nose despite the face?

May 01, 2013
most items labeled green are actually not better for the environment.

Source? Evidence please. Or have you done your own research?

May 02, 2013
Links about green products not being green.


There are a lot more, but you can do the research.

May 02, 2013
Moral of the story? Some out there can see through the marketing directed at bleeding heart simpletons.

Liberals trust society and believe in the social contract and their fellow mans help in time of need.

No, liberals INSIST others help them in their time of need, which seems to be always. If you seek to choose to plan and prepare for your own family they will send their armed tax collectors to fulfill the "social contract" of bailing out those who cannot take responsibility for themselves.

May 02, 2013

"There are a lot more, but you can do the research."

In what way does this constitute proof of "MOST green items ...... "

try thinking

May 02, 2013
Debating with a conservative is like trying to bail water with a cloth.

Always they respond with isolated this and that minute slices of the discussion which can easily be proven wrong or irrelevant most of the time but alas they have an endless bag of these nonsense slices to keep throwing up and you just get tired.

For instance cantdrive85 response.. No reply is needed....

May 03, 2013
There are a lot more, but you can do the research.

Thank you, your evidence illustrates that the problem is with corporations making these false claims and not with the truly "green" products that are labelled properly. My point is not about mis-labelling, or other corporate tricks, but about the majority of products with green labeling that are better for the environment.

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