News Ticker

Poll: Fifty percent of Americans shop with climate change on the mind

A new survey on attitudes toward climate change has discovered that half of all Americans at least occasionally consider environmental impacts when deciding whether or not to buy a product.

In April, researchers from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication polled 1,045 adults over 18 years old.

With the exception of energy-efficient florescent light bulbs – which have become the norm – the number of Americans taking actions towards reducing energy use at home and on the road has remained relatively stable over the past five years.

Over two thirds of respondents intend to buy more energy-efficient items when making their next major purchase, such as: energy-efficient kitchen appliance (75 percent), home water heater (71 percent), home air conditioner (68 percent), or home furnace (67 percent). When buying a car, six in 10 are looking to get an average of at least 30 miles per gallon.

In terms of consumer behavior, in the past 12 months, 28 percent of respondents have bought products from companies taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products, while 21 percent have refused to purchase products from companies opposing steps to reduce global warming.

Finally, with respect to education and involvement, in the past 12 months, one in four of those surveyed have discussed a company’s irresponsible environmental behavior with friends or family; one in 10 has spread this information via the Internet. A further four out of 10 respondents would be willing to join a campaign about global warming.

In analyzing the data, researchers found that views on the issue of global warming could be categorized into six different groups based on similar beliefs, attitudes and behaviors about climate change.

The three largest groups – the Alarmed, Concerned and Cautious – constitute roughly two-thirds of the American public. Ranging in certainty about the reality of climate change, they are inclined to believe it is a real threat that needs to be addressed.

The Alarmed, at 16 percent, are certain global warming is occurring, understand that it is human-caused and strongly support societal action to reduce the threat. The Concerned, at 26 percent, are moderately certain global warming is occurring, harmful, and human-caused. They support societal action on climate change, but are unlikely to have engaged in political activism. Finally the Cautious, at 25 percent, are likely to believe climate change is real – but are not certain, and tend to view global warming as a distant threat.

The remaining third of the population have given the issue of global warming little to no thought (Disengaged), are uncertain whether global warming is occurring or not (Doubtful), or are certain global warming is not occurring (Dismissive).

One of the most important changes over time is that fewer people now believe that individual actions can substantially limit global warming, even if taken by the majority of people in developed countries.