Two-Thirds of Americans See Long-Term Effects on the Planet as More Important than Short Term Economic Effects

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – April 10, 2014 – As Earth Day approaches, a new Harris Poll takes stock of American attitudes around the environment and how much responsibility its inhabitants take in preserving its future. Well over a third of Americans say the statements I am concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations (38%) and I personally care about the current state, and future, of the environment (36%) describe them completely or very well, with an additional three in ten (29% each) saying each describes them fairly well.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,234 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014.

    How Green Are You?

    Roughly three in ten each feel the statements I am environmentally conscious (31%) and I feel a personal responsibility for taking care of the environment (28%) describe them completely or very well, with an additional three in ten each (30% and 31%, respectively) saying each describes them fairly well.

    • A majority also indicates that they speak out on behalf of the environment, with 27% saying that I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly describes them completely or very well and the same percentage saying it describes them fairly well.
    • Fewer than two in ten feel the labels green (19%), conservationist (19%) and environmentalist (15%) describe them completely or very well, with roughly one-fourth saying each describes them fairly well (26%, 28% and 22%, respectively).
    • Americans are less likely to indicate each of these describe them completely or very well than they were in 2013 (green self assessments have dropped from 22% to 19%, conservationist from 23% to 19% and environmentalist from 18% to 15%).

    Women and Children First

    Those with children under 18 are more likely than those without to say show strong alignment with the statement I am concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations (44% with vs. 37% without).

    • However, they’re not significantly more likely than their counterparts to describe themselves as environmentally conscious (32% and 31%, respectively), to indicate feeling a personal responsibility for taking care of the environment (30% and 27%, respectively) or to indicate encouraging others to be more environmentally-friendly (30% and 26%).

    In contrast, women – who are more likely than men to align themselves very much or completely with the statements I am concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations (42% women vs. 34% men) and I personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment (39% and 32%, respectively) – also show a greater propensity to translate these attitudes into action. In addition:

    • Women are more likely to indicate encouraging others to be more environmentally-friendly (30% women vs. 24% men) and to be making more effort than a year ago to be environmentally-conscious (38% and 29%, respectively).
    • They are also more likely to seek out green products (83% women vs. 78% men), though they’re no more willing to pay extra for such products (28% each).
    • They are also not significantly more likely to be making more of an effort than a year ago to be environmentally conscious (36% and 33%, respectively).

    Green Still a Go

    Many Americans are making an effort to be more environmentally conscious, with roughly one third of Americans (34%) agreeing that they’re making more of an effort to do so than a year ago. However, Americans are still divided on whether it’s easy (45% this year; 47% last year) or difficult (50% and 49%, respectively) to live a green or environmentally conscious lifestyle.

    The Color of Money

    Two-thirds of U.S. adults agree in theory that long term effects on the planet are more important than short term effects on the economy (67%) – but are they as willing to put the planet’s interests ahead of money when it’s their money?

    • Eight in ten Americans (80%, identical to last year) say they seek out green products – but fewer than three in ten (28%, on par with 30% in 2013) express a willingness to spend even a little bit extra for such products.

    Over a third will seek out green products only so long as the cost is the same (37%, up from 33% in 2013) and 15% (down slightly from 18% last year) will only do so if those products will save them money.

    Click herefor a look at American attitudes specifically on weather and climate change.

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

    38

    17

    21

    29

    33

    22

    11

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

    36

    14

    21

    29

    35

    24

    11

    I am environmentally-conscious.

    31

    11

    20

    30

    38

    28

    10

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

    28

    10

    18

    31

    41

    27

    14

    I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

    27

    10

    17

    27

    46

    26

    20

    I am green.

    19

    6

    13

    26

    55

    32

    23

    I am a conservationist.

    19

    7

    11

    28

    53

    30

    23

    I am an environmentalist.

    15

    6

    8

    22

    63

    30

    33

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

     

    TABLE 1b

    ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENTS & LABELS

    Trend

    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

    2014 Total

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

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

    43

    36

    34

    37

    38

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

    36

    34

    31

    38

    36

    I am environmentally-conscious.

    30

    29

    27

    31

    31

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

    29

    29

    27

    30

    28

    I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

    26

    25

    24

    28

    27

    I am green.

    13

    18

    17

    22

    19

    I am a conservationist.

    17

    20

    20

    23

    19

    I am an environmentalist.

    13

    16

    16

    18

    15

    Note: Multiple responses.

     

    TABLE 1c

    ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENTS & LABELS

    By Gender, Parental Status & Political Party

    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

    Parents with children under 18

    Political Party

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

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

    38

    34

    42

    44

    37

    28

    44

    42

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

    36

    32

    39

    37

    35

    27

    42

    37

    I am environmentally-conscious.

    31

    29

    33

    32

    31

    26

    34

    36

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

    28

    27

    29

    30

    27

    24

    32

    30

    I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

    27

    24

    30

    30

    26

    23

    31

    27

    I am green.

    19

    18

    20

    22

    19

    17

    22

    21

    I am a conservationist.

    19

    20

    18

    20

    18

    19

    17

    20

    I am an environmentalist.

    15

    14

    15

    16

    14

    12

    18

    14

    Note: Multiple responses.

     

    TABLE 2

    EFFORT TO BE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS

    By Trend, Gender & Political Party

    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

    2014 Total

    Gender

    Parents with children under 18

    Political Party

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    More effort

    45

    32

    34

    29

    38

    36

    33

    29

    37

    36

    Same amount of effort

    51

    63

    64

    67

    61

    61

    65

    67

    61

    62

    Less effort

    3

    5

    2

    3

    1

    3

    2

    4

    2

    2

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

     

    TABLE 3

    EASY OR DIFFICULT TO LIVE A GREEN LIFESTYLE

    By Trend, Gender, Political Party

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

    Base: U.S. adults

    2013 Total

    2014 Total

    Gender

    Parents with children under 18

    Political Party

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Easy (NET)

    47

    45

    45

    45

    44

    45

    45

    47

    45

    Very easy

    10

    10

    10

    10

    12

    10

    10

    12

    8

    Somewhat easy

    36

    35

    34

    36

    32

    36

    34

    35

    36

    Difficult (NET)

    49

    50

    50

    50

    51

    50

    51

    50

    50

    Somewhat difficult

    39

    41

    41

    41

    40

    42

    39

    42

    43

    Very difficult

    9

    9

    9

    9

    12

    8

    12

    7

    8

    Not at all sure

    5

    5

    5

    4

    5

    5

    4

    4

    5

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

     

    TABLE 4a

    ATTITUDES TOWARD GREEN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

    Trend

    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

    2014 Total

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    SEEK OUT GREEN PRODUCTS (NET)

    76

    78

    79

    80

    80

    WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

    32

    28

    31

    30

    28

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

    3

    3

    4

    3

    4

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

    2

    2

    2

    4

    3

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

    26

    23

    24

    23

    22

    NOT WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

    45

    49

    49

    51

    53

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

    29

    32

    30

    33

    37

    ONLY IF SAVE MONEY (NET)

    16

    17

    19

    18

    15

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

    9

    9

    9

    10

    8

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

    7

    8

    10

    8

    7

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

    24

    22

    21

    20

    20

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

     

    TABLE 4b

    ATTITUDES TOWARD GREEN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

    By Gender, Generation & Political Party

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

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total

    Gender

    Parents with children under 18

    Political Party

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    SEEK OUT GREEN PRODUCTS (NET)

    80

    78

    83

    82

    80

    76

    85

    80

    WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

    28

    28

    28

    30

    27

    20

    32

    31

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

    4

    3

    4

    6

    3

    3

    5

    3

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

    3

    3

    2

    2

    3

    3

    3

    2

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

    22

    22

    21

    22

    21

    14

    25

    27

    NOT WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

    53

    50

    55

    52

    53

    56

    52

    49

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

    37

    35

    40

    35

    38

    35

    41

    35

    ONLY IF SAVE MONEY (NET)

    15

    15

    15

    17

    15

    21

    11

    14

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

    8

    8

    8

    10

    8

    11

    7

    7

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

    7

    7

    7

    6

    7

    11

    4

    7

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

    20

    22

    17

    18

    20

    24

    15

    20

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


    TABLE 5a

    LONG TERM EFFECTS ON THE PLANET VS. SHORT TERM ECONOMIC EFFECTS

    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

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Long term effects on the planet are more important than short term effects on the economy.

    67

    24

    44

    33

    23

    10

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

     

    TABLE 5b

    LONG TERM EFFECTS ON THE PLANET VS. SHORT TERM ECONOMIC EFFECTS

    By Gender, Generation & Political Party

    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

    Parents with children under 18

    Political Party

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Long term effects on the planet are more important than short term effects on the economy.

    67

    66

    68

    68

    67

    54

    77

    68

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll¨ #34, April 10, 2014

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.