Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ideology Matters for Energy Conservation

In a new article appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (here), Dena M. Gromet, Howard Kunreuther, and Richard P. Larrick report on a very interesting, but also troubling, empirical finding that conservatives are actually less likely to buy energy-saving lightbulbs if they are marketed as environmentally friendly. Here is the abstract:
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.
I'm disturbed, but not particularly surprised, to learn that ideology can lead so-called "Conservatives" to waste resources simply in order to declare their opposition to policies they (wrongly, in this case) consider to be "Liberal."

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