Fewer Americans “Thinking Green�

New York, N.Y. – April 18, 2012 Since the summer of 2009 the Harris Poll has been tracking Americans’ attitudes toward the environment as well as their engagement in various environmentally-friendly, or green, behaviors. The latest installment finds that many green behaviors, including those capable of saving consumers money, continue to decline. And perhaps more alarming, considerably fewer U.S. adults now express concern for, and awareness of, environmental issues.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,451 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over), surveyed online between March 12 and March 19, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Since these questions were first asked in 2009 there has been a decline in some green behaviors. In 2012, U.S. adults are now less likely to do each of the following in their daily life:

  • Reuse things they have instead of throwing them away or buying new items (65% 2009 vs. 61% 2012);
  • Make an effort to use less water (60% 2009 vs. 57% 2010 and 2012);
  • Buy food in bulk (33% 2009 vs. 30% 2012);
  • Purchase all-natural products (18% 2009 vs. 16% 2012); and
  • Purchase organic products (17% 2009 vs. 15% 2010 and 2012).

They are also less likely to espouse certain green attitudes – fewer Americans describe themselves as environmentally-conscious (27% 2012 vs. 30% 2009), or say they personally care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment (31% 2012 vs. 36% 2009 and 34% 2010).

Most significantly, in 2012, only about 1 in 3 U.S. adults (34%) say they are concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations – an almost 10 percentage point decrease since 2009 (43%).

At the same time, however, a minority of Americans – more so than in 2009 – continue to describe themselves as:

  • Conservationist (20% 2012 and 2010 vs. 17% 2009);
  • Green (17% 2012 and 18% 2010 vs. 13% 2009); and
  • Environmentalist (16% 2012 and 2010 vs. 13% 2009).

So What?

Over the past few years, more pressing issues such as health care reform, economic recovery, and the upcoming presidential election have eclipsed discussions about the environment, so perhaps it is not very surprising that these latest Harris Poll results continue to show a decline in green attitudes and behaviors. Unfortunately for consumers, some of the green behaviors they fail to adopt – such as buying food in bulk – could be saving them money, while others – such as recycling – could help us leave behind a cleaner, more sustainable future for our grandchildren. There may be a silver lining though, if the group of Americans who express the strongest commitment to the environment is a vocal and highly engaged minority.

 

TABLE 1A

FREQUENCY OF VARIOUS GREEN BEHAVIORS

How often do you do each of the following in your daily life?

Base: All adults

Always/ Often (NET)

Always

Often

Sometimes

Rarely/ Never (NET)

Rarely

Never

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Keep unneeded lights off or turn lights off when leaving a room

81

46

35

13

6

2

4

Recycle

68

43

25

17

15

8

7

Reuse things that I have instead of throwing them away or buying new items

61

23

38

25

14

7

6

Make an effort to use less water

57

25

32

28

15

8

7

Unplug electrical appliances when I am not using them

43

17

26

27

30

16

14

Purchase locally grown produce

36

6

30

43

21

12

9

Buy food in bulk

30

8

23

37

32

20

12

Purchase locally manufactured products

24

4

20

48

27

18

9

Purchase used items rather than new

23

5

18

38

39

24

14

Compost food and organic waste

18

9

9

15

67

16

51

Carpool or take public transportation

17

6

11

18

65

22

44

Purchase all-natural products

16

4

13

41

43

27

15

Walk or ride a bike instead of driving or using public transportation

16

6

10

21

62

25

37

Purchase organic products

15

3

12

37

48

27

21

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


 

TABLE 1B

FREQUENCY OF VARIOUS GREEN BEHAVIORS

How often do you do each of the following in your daily life?

Summary of those saying Always or Often

Base: All adults

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

%

%

%

Keep unneeded lights off or turn lights off when leaving a room

83

81

81

Recycle

68

68

68

Reuse things that I have instead of throwing them away or buying new items

65

63

61

Make an effort to use less water

60

57

57

Unplug electrical appliances when I am not using them

40

39

43

Purchase locally grown produce

39

33

36

Buy food in bulk

33

32

30

Purchase locally manufactured products

26

23

24

Purchase used items rather than new

25

24

23

Compost food and organic waste

17

15

18

Carpool or take public transportation

16

16

17

Purchase all-natural products

18

16

16

Walk or ride a bike instead of driving or using public transportation

15

15

16

Purchase organic products

17

15

15

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

 

 


 

TABLE 2A

ENVIRONMENTAL LABELS

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

Base: All adults

Very well/

Completely (NET)

Completely

Very well

Fairly well

Somewhat well/Does not describe me (NET)

Somewhat

well

Does not describe me at all

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

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

34

12

22

27

39

26

13

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

31

11

19

29

40

28

12

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

27

9

18

27

46

30

16

I am environmentally-conscious.

27

9

18

33

40

28

12

I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

24

9

15

28

48

27

21

I am a conservationist.

20

6

14

24

56

30

25

I am green.

17

5

11

25

59

31

27

I am an environmentalist.

16

6

10

21

63

27

36

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

 

 

TABLE 2B

ENVIRONMENTAL LABELS

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

Summary of those saying Very well or Completely

Base: All adults

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

%

%

%

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

43

36

34

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

36

34

31

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

29

29

27

I am environmentally-conscious.

30

29

27

I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

26

25

24

I am a conservationist.

17

20

20

I am green.

13

18

17

I am an environmentalist.

13

16

16

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

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 to 19, 2012 among 2,451 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.

 

J41436

Q960, Q980

 

The Harris Poll ® #41, April 18, 2012

By Kathy Steinberg, Sr. Account Manager, Harris Interactive

 

 

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.