Fewer Americans “Going Green”

    New York, N.Y. – January 10, 2011 – When it comes to the environment, there is an interesting difference in who is and who is not green. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) adults are greener than their heterosexual counterparts – LGBT adults are more likely to express concern for the environment, describe themselves in green terms (e.g., environmentalist, green, conservationist), and say environmental issues are important to their voting and purchasing decisions.

    However, while LGBT adults are increasing their commitment to the environment, American adults overall are now less likely than they were in the summer of 2009 to espouse certain green attitudes and engage in various environmentally-friendly activities.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,352 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over), surveyed online between November 8 and November 15, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

    A comparison between the 2010 and 2009 surveys reveals that fewer Americans are now going green. Specifically, compared to 2009, adults in America are now less likely to engage in various green behaviors in their daily life, including:

    • Making an effort to use less water (60% 2009 vs. 57% 2010);
    • Purchasing locally grown produce (39% 2009 vs. 33% 2010);
    • Purchasing locally manufactured products (26% 2009 vs. 23% 2010);
    • Purchasing organic products (17% 2009 vs. 15% 2010); and
    • Composting food and organic waste (17% 2009 vs. 15% 2010).

    And, U.S. adults are also less likely to have adopted certain environmental activities in the past year, including:

    • Purchased Energy Star appliances (36% 2009 vs. 30% 2010);
    • Donated or recycled electronics (41% 2009 vs. 32% 2010);
    • Switched from bottled to tap water (29% 2009 vs. 23% 2010);
    • Installed a low-flow showerhead or toilet (25% 2009 vs. 20% 2010); and
    • Purchased a hybrid or more fuel-efficient car (13% 2009 vs. 8% 2010).

    Not only are fewer Americans behaving in environmentally-friendly ways, but many are now also less likely to embrace, or be influenced by, green attitudes – just over 1 in 3 U.S. adults (36%) say they are concerned about the planet they are leaving behind for future generations, compared to more than 2 in 5 adults (43%) who said so in 2009. And, only 28% of adults say environmental issues are very or extremely important to them when deciding how to vote for political candidates, compared to more than 1 in 3 adults (36%) who said this was important to them in 2009.

    Despite the aforementioned declines in Americans’ attitudes and actions concerning environmental issues, U.S. adults are now more likely to describe themselves as conservationist (20% 2010 vs. 17% 2009), green (18% 2010 vs. 13% 2009), and environmentalist (16% 2010 vs. 13% 2009) than they were previously.

    So What?

    It is difficult to draw conclusions from these paradoxical results: on the one hand, only minorities of U.S. adults – even fewer now than in 2009 – think or act green. On the other hand, though still only a minority, more adults than before now label themselves in environmental terms. Only time will tell if Americans are just paying lip service to trendy buzz words like green and environmentalist, or if these are signs of a gradually expanding small but vocal green movement. One point to consider, though, is the economy: it’s possible that, in economic hard times, environmental enthusiasm wanes as people face tougher financial problems.

     

    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

    47

    34

    15

    4

    2

    2

    Recycle

    68

    43

    25

    19

    13

    7

    6

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

    63

    23

    40

    25

    11

    7

    4

    Make an effort to use less water

    57

    24

    34

    27

    16

    10

    6

    Unplug electrical appliances when I am not using them

    39

    15

    25

    27

    34

    17

    16

    Purchase locally grown produce

    33

    6

    27

    44

    23

    15

    9

    Buy food in bulk

    32

    7

    25

    37

    31

    20

    11

    Purchase locally manufactured products

    23

    4

    19

    48

    28

    19

    9

    Purchase used items rather than new

    24

    4

    20

    39

    37

    23

    14

    Purchase all-natural products

    16

    2

    14

    42

    41

    27

    14

    Purchase organic products

    15

    2

    13

    36

    49

    28

    21

    Compost food and organic waste

    15

    7

    8

    15

    70

    16

    54

    Carpool or take public transportation

    16

    7

    9

    17

    67

    23

    44

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

    15

    3

    11

    22

    64

    23

    41

    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

    %

    %

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

    83

    81

    Recycle

    68

    68

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

    65

    63

    Make an effort to use less water

    60

    57

    Unplug electrical appliances when I am not using them

    40

    39

    Purchase locally grown produce

    39

    33

    Buy food in bulk

    33

    32

    Purchase locally manufactured products

    26

    23

    Purchase used items rather than new

    25

    24

    Purchase all-natural products

    18

    16

    Purchase organic products

    17

    15

    Compost food and organic waste

    17

    15

    Carpool or take public transportation

    16

    16

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

    15

    15

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


     

     

     

    TABLE 2

    ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES IN LAST YEAR

    Which of the following environmental activities, if any, have you done within the past year?

    Base: All adults

    2009

    Total

    2010

    Total

    %

    %

    Energy-Efficient Lighting/Appliances (NET)

    69

    66

    Replaced regular light bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting (e.g., CFLs, LEDs)

    63

    61

    Purchased energy-efficient (e.g., Energy Star) appliances

    36

    30

    Paperless Statements/Online Bill Pay (NET)

    53

    54

    Started paying bills online for my personal financial accounts

    46

    44

    Switched to paperless statements for my personal financial accounts

    40

    41

    Donated or recycled a computer, cell phone or other electronic device or its parts

    41

    32

    Switched from bottled water to filtered tap water

    29

    23

    Low-Flow Showerhead/Toilet (NET)

    25

    20

    Installed a low-flow showerhead

    17

    13

    Installed a low-flow toilet

    16

    13

    Patronized/Avoided a Business (NET)

    15

    15

    Patronized a business because of their environmental activities

    11

    10

    Avoided patronizing a business because of their environmental activities (or lack thereof)

    9

    10

    Made home improvements that enabled me to take advantage of a green government tax credit (e.g., installed dual-pane windows, solar panels, insulation)

    14

    13

    Hybrid/Fuel-Efficient Car (NET)

    13

    8

    Purchased a more fuel-efficient car that is not a hybrid

    11

    7

    Purchased a hybrid car

    2

    1

    None

    13

    16

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding, the acceptance of multiple responses, and the exclusion of other.

     


     

    TABLE 3A

    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.

    36

    16

    20

    27

    38

    26

    11

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

    34

    14

    20

    27

    39

    29

    10

    I am environmentally-conscious.

    29

    10

    20

    29

    42

    31

    11

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

    29

    10

    19

    26

    45

    30

    15

    I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

    25

    9

    16

    25

    50

    28

    23

    I am a conservationist.

    20

    7

    13

    26

    54

    30

    24

    I am green.

    18

    6

    13

    24

    58

    32

    26

    I am an environmentalist.

    16

    6

    11

    20

    63

    28

    35

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

     

     

    TABLE 3B

    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

    %

    %

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

    43

    36

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

    36

    34

    I am environmentally-conscious.

    30

    29

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

    29

    29

    I encourage others to be more environmentally-friendly.

    26

    25

    I am a conservationist.

    17

    20

    I am green.

    13

    18

    I am an environmentalist.

    13

    16

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

     

    TABLE 4A

    ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONS

    How important are environmental issues to you when it comes to making decisions about…?

    Base: All adults

    Extremely/

    Very Important (NET)

    Extremely Important

    Very Important

    Fairly Important

    Somewhat/

    Not at all Important (NET)

    Somewhat Important

    Not at all important

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    How you vote for political candidates

    28

    11

    17

    23

    49

    27

    23

    Which products or services you purchase

    27

    7

    20

    26

    48

    30

    18

    What company or business you work for, or apply for a job at

    18

    6

    12

    21

    62

    26

    36

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

     

    TABLE 4B

    ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONS

    How important are environmental issues to you when it comes to making decisions about…?

    Summary of those saying Extremely important or Very important

     

    Base: All adults

    2009

    Total

    2010

    Total

    %

    %

    How you vote for political candidates

    36

    28

    Which products or services you purchase

    26

    27

    What company or business you work for, or apply for a job at

    17

    18

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

     

     

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between November 8 to 15, 2010 among 2,352 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.

     

    J38848

    Q860, 865, 875, 880

    The Harris Poll ® #3, January 10, 2011

    By Kathy Steinberg, Sr. Research Manager, Public Affairs and Policy Research, 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, European, and Asian 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.