Majority of Americans See Organic Label as an Excuse to Charge More

NEW YORK, N.Y. – April 15, 2013 – Does an uptick in the economy give people more reason to care about Mother Earth? That is what a March 2013 Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults (ages 18+) interviewed online set to find out as Earth Day quickly approaches. Turns out that concern for the current state, and future, of the environment is on the rise in 2013 (38 percent vs. 31 percent in 2012), just as economic indicators point to all time stock market highs and a solid housing market recovery. However, as Americans start to feel better about reaching into their pockets, they still may not be ready to dish out the extra green on organic items. Turns out that more than half (59%) agree that labeling food or other products as organic is just an excuse to charge more.

What surprised us most was that while Americans are showing more concern for the environment, they aren’t necessarily willing to pay more to do anything about it, said Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll. While Americans feel better about the economy, many are wary of the ‘greenwashing’ concept that gives companies a chance to cash in on consumers who want to help the planet but are confused by all the eco-friendly jargon.

Fact vs. Fiction

Going green continues to be a gray area, as consumers try to decide where it makes sense to incorporate it into their lives. While recent research shows that organic produce and meat typically aren’t any better for you than conventional varieties when it comes to vitamin and nutrient content [1] more than half of Americans (55%) believe that organic foods are healthier than non-organic. In addition:

  • 41% think organic food tastes better and/or fresher than non-organic
  • Only 23% know what the term dirty dozen (The Environmental Working Group’s annual list of foods consumers should always buy organic due to pesticide levels) means in regards to organic food [2]
  • 48% think washing dishes by hand is more environmentally friendly than using the dishwasher, though a study from Scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany found that the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap than hand-washing an identical set of dirty dishes [3]

Is it Easy Being Green?

Americans are divided on how easy, or not so easy, it is to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, with nearly equal percentages of U.S. adults perceiving it as difficult (49%) and easy (47%). When asked about sentiments towards going green, respondents indicated the following:

  • Eight in ten Americans (80%) say they will seek out green products, but only three in ten (30%) are willing to pay extra for them
    • 60% of Americans prefer to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies because of the chemicals contained in traditional cleaning products
  • As noted, the majority of Americans agree that labeling food or other products organic is just an excuse to charge more (59%).
    • Men are the most skeptical about organic, with 63% agreeing that the labeling of food or other products as organic is an excuse to charge more, versus 54% of women
  • Overall, efforts to be green seem to have leveled off, with nearly two-thirds (63%) making the same amount of effort to be environmentally conscious as a year ago, up considerably from 2009 (51%)

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TABLE 1a

ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENTS & LABELS

Summary Table

To what extent, if any, does each of the following statements describe you?

Base: U.S. adults

Very well/

Completely (NET)

Completely

Very well

Fairly well

Somewhat well/Not at all (NET)

Somewhat

well

Does not describe me at all

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment.

38

17

21

24

38

27

12

I am concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations.

37

17

20

26

36

24

13

I am environmentally-conscious.

31

12

19

29

41

28

13

I feel a personal responsibility for taking care of the environment.

30

11

20

26

44

26

18

I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

28

10

18

24

48

25

23

I am a conservationist.

23

8

15

25

52

28

24

I am green.

22

7

15

23

55

29

26

I am an environmentalist.

18

7

11

21

61

26

35

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

 


TABLE 1b

ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENTS & LABELS

By Year

To what extent, if any, does each of the following statements describe you?

Summary of those saying Very well or Completely

Base: U.S. adults

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

2013 Total

%

%

%

%

I personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment.

36

34

31

38

I am concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations.

43

36

34

37

I am environmentally-conscious.

30

29

27

31

I feel a personal responsibility for taking care of the environment.

29

29

27

30

I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

26

25

24

28

I am a conservationist.

17

20

20

23

I am green.

13

18

17

22

I am an environmentalist.

13

16

16

18

Note: Multiple responses.

 

TABLE 1c

ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENTS & LABELS

By Gender, Region & Political Affiliation

To what extent, if any, does each of the following statements describe you?

Summary of those saying Very well or Completely

Base: U.S. adults

Total

Gender

Region

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

East

Midwest

South

West

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment.

38

37

38

42

33

33

43

28

46

40

I am concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations.

37

36

38

43

34

35

39

26

46

40

I am environmentally-conscious.

31

30

32

35

30

24

36

22

37

34

I feel a personal responsibility for taking care of the environment.

30

28

32

33

26

28

35

22

37

33

I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

28

27

29

31

25

25

33

19

35

30

I am a conservationist.

23

21

25

22

21

20

31

17

26

29

I am green.

22

20

24

23

20

17

29

14

28

24

I am an environmentalist.

18

16

20

17

18

16

22

9

23

20

Note: Multiple responses.

 

 

TABLE 2

EFFORT TO BE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS

By Tracking, Gender, Region & Political Affiliation

Would you say that you are making more effort, less effort or about the same amount of effort to be environmentally conscious than you were a year ago?

Base: U.S. adults

2009 Total

2013 Total

Gender

Region

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

East

Midwest

South

West

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

More effort

45

32

28

36

27

35

32

34

24

34

36

Same amount of effort

51

63

64

63

70

60

62

63

67

63

61

Less effort

3

5

8

2

3

5

6

4

8

3

3

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

 

TABLE 3

EASY OR DIFFICULT TO LIVE A GREEN LIFESTYLE

By Gender, Region & Political Affiliation

How easy or difficult do you think it is to live a green or environmentally conscious lifestyle?

Base: U.S. adults

Total

Gender

Region

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

East

Midwest

South

West

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Easy (NET)

47

48

46

54

43

40

52

40

55

47

Very easy

10

11

10

11

11

8

13

8

14

9

Somewhat easy

36

36

36

43

32

32

39

32

41

39

Difficult (NET)

49

47

50

41

52

55

44

55

41

49

Somewhat difficult

39

36

42

36

43

42

36

41

36

43

Very difficult

9

11

8

5

9

13

8

14

5

7

Not at all sure

5

5

4

5

5

5

4

5

3

3

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

 


TABLE 4a

ATTITUDES TOWARD GREEN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

By Year

Which of the following statements best describes your perspective on environmentally-friendly (i.e., green) products or services? 

Base: U.S. adults

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

2013 Total

%

%

%

%

SEEK OUT GREEN PRODUCTS (NET)

76

78

79

80

WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

32

28

31

30

I seek out green products, no matter the additional cost.

3

3

4

3

I seek out green products even if I have to pay a lot extra.

2

2

2

4

I seek out green products even if I have to pay a little extra.

26

23

24

23

NOT WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

45

49

49

51

I seek out green products as long as the cost is the same.

29

32

30

33

ONLY IF SAVE MONEY (NET)

16

17

19

18

I seek out green products only if they save me at least a little money.

9

9

9

10

I seek out green products only if they save me a lot of money.

7

8

10

8

I do not seek out green products, no matter the cost or savings.

24

22

21

20

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 


TABLE 4b

ATTITUDES TOWARD GREEN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

By Gender, Region & Political Affiliation

Which of the following statements best describes your perspective on environmentally-friendly (i.e., green) products or services? 

Base: U.S. adults

Total

Gender

Region

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

East

Midwest

South

West

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

SEEK OUT GREEN PRODUCTS (NET)

80

80

81

78

78

79

87

72

84

85

WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

30

32

28

28

26

24

41

20

37

32

I seek out green products, no matter the additional cost.

3

4

3

3

2

2

6

2

4

2

I seek out green products even if I have to pay a lot extra.

4

3

4

3

4

2

6

2

6

3

I seek out green products even if I have to pay a little extra.

23

25

21

22

20

21

29

16

28

27

NOT WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

51

49

53

50

52

54

46

52

47

53

I seek out green products as long as the cost is the same.

33

31

35

32

35

34

29

31

32

37

ONLY IF SAVE MONEY (NET)

18

18

18

18

17

20

16

22

15

16

I seek out green products only if they save me at least a little money.

10

10

10

11

10

10

10

11

10

9

I seek out green products only if they save me a lot of money.

8

7

8

7

7

10

6

11

5

8

I do not seek out green products, no matter the cost or savings.

20

20

19

22

22

21

13

28

16

15

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.

 


 

TABLE 5a

AGREEMENT WITH GREEN STATEMENTS

Summary Table

Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

Base: U.S. adults

Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat

disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I prefer to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies because of the chemicals contained in traditional cleaning products.

60

21

38

35

18

17

6

I think labeling food or other products as organic is just an excuse to charge more.

59

22

37

36

22

14

6

I worry about the freshness of my produce due to the distance it travels to my grocery store.

56

20

36

40

21

18

4

I think organic foods are healthier in comparison to non-organic, but otherwise similar, products.

55

18

38

37

20

17

8

I think washing dishes by hand is more environmentally friendly than using the dishwasher.

48

19

29

42

21

22

9

I think organic food tastes better/fresher than non-organic.

41

13

28

47

24

23

12

I am concerned about the carbon footprint caused by transporting fresh produce to my grocery store.

39

11

29

52

26

26

9

I know what the term dirty dozen means in regard to organic food.

23

9

14

52

14

38

25

I often don’t buy organic food because I think it goes bad faster.

23

6

16

64

29

35

13

I feel guilty if I buy non-organic fruits and vegetables.

18

5

13

78

24

54

4

I judge people who only buy organic food.

16

4

12

78

14

64

5

I judge people who do not buy organic food.

9

 

2

7

87

15

72

4

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 5b

AGREEMENT WITH GREEN STATEMENTS

By Gender, Region & Political Affiliation

Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

Summary of those saying Strongly agree or Somewhat agree

Base: U.S. adults

Total

Gender

Region

Political Affiliation

Male

Female

East

Midwest

South

West

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I prefer to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies because of the chemicals contained in traditional cleaning products.

60

61

59

60

56

57

66

49

66

67

I think labeling food or other products as organic is just an excuse to charge more.

59

63

54

57

61

61

54

65

54

58

I worry about the freshness of my produce due to the distance it travels to my grocery store.

56

52

59

63

56

54

52

55

57

59

I think organic foods are healthier in comparison to non-organic, but otherwise similar, products.

55

54

57

57

54

54

57

49

62

58

I think washing dishes by hand is more environmentally friendly than using the dishwasher.

48

47

49

53

50

46

46

42

54

49

I think organic food tastes better/fresher than non-organic.

41

39

43

43

36

41

43

34

46

45

I am concerned about the carbon footprint caused by transporting fresh produce to my grocery store.

39

38

40

41

38

36

42

30

49

42

I know what the term dirty dozen means in regard to organic food.

23

23

23

21

26

22

24

19

23

23

I often don’t buy organic food because I think it goes bad faster.

23

22

23

23

22

23

22

25

23

19

I feel guilty if I buy non-organic fruits and vegetables.

18

16

20

20

16

17

19

14

19

21

I judge people who only buy organic food.

16

20

13

18

15

14

19

19

15

16

I judge people who do not buy organic food.

9

11

7

10

9

6

12

8

10

9

Note: Multiple responses.

 


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,276 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll ‘c2’ae #21, April 15, 2013

 

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