Green Still Follows Green: The Environment Retains Influence on Spending

New York, N.Y. – May 30, 2012 Since the summer of 2009, Harris Interactive has been tracking Americans’ attitudes toward the environment as well as their engagement in various environmentally-friendly or green, behaviors. While concern and awareness around environmental issues has slipped , this has yet to affect how consumers say environmental issues influence their purchase behavior. The exception here is young adults, aged 18-24, who have grown decidedly more likely to consider the environment when spending.

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.

A full quarter of U.S. adults (26%) say that environmental issues are either extremely or very important to them when deciding which products or services to purchase, a number that remains remarkably consistent across gender, geography, education, and income. Moreover, this has moved little over the years: 27% of U.S. adults said environmental issues were extremely/very important to their purchasing decisions in 2010 and 26% said the same in 2009.

The story is quite different, however, among the youngest of U.S. adults. Nearly a third (31%) of 18-24 year-olds claim to take environmental issues into consideration when making purchases, a number which has steadily risen from 24% in 2010 and 22% in 2009.

Americans also continue to show a preference for products and services that are ‘green’, with 79% seeking out green products, slightly up from 78% in 2010 and 76% in 2009. But what has rebounded to 2009 levels is that 31% of U.S. adults say they are willing to pay extra for a green product, up from 28% in 2010, and back to the 32% who said the same in 2009.

Again, however, 18-24 year old U.S. adults show a striking change: 35% say they are willing to pay extra for a green product, a sharp rise from 27% in 2010 and 25% in 2009. And, although just 4% of all U.S. adults seek out green products and services regardless of the cost (virtually unchanged from 3% in 2010 and 2009), the 18-24 year old age group is at a remarkable 11%, far above the 3% of 18-24 year-olds who said the same in 2010 and 2009. At the same time though, even half of this youngest age group (51%) say they are not willing to pay extra for green products.

So What?

In light of the decline this Harris Poll series has seen in green attitudes and awareness, it is striking that in an area where one could expect to see this decline materialize first – people’s wallets – the numbers have remained remarkably consistent. This could very well indicate that a green influencing green phenomenon, namely a sizeable minority of consumers who look to environmental issues to gauge how to spend their money, will continue to shape consumer economic activity, regardless of how Americans in general feel about the environment. Moreover, considering the sharp uptick in reported purchasing behavior among young American adults, we may very well see environmental issues grow in importance in the years to come, as these younger Americans see their purchasing power increase as they move into and advance in the workplace.

 

 

 

 

TABLE 1A

IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ON PURCHASE BEHAVIOR

How important are environmental issues to you when it comes to making decisions about which products or services you purchase?

Base: All adults

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

%

%

%

Extremely/ Very Important (NET)

26

27

26

Extremely important

7

7

6

Very important

19

20

19

Fairly

30

26

29

Somewhat/ Not at all Important (NET)

44

48

45

Somewhat important

28

30

27

Not at all important

16

18

18

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

 

 

 

TABLE 1B

IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ON PURCHASE BEHAVIOR – Trend for 18-24 year olds

How important are environmental issues to you when it comes to making decisions about which products or services you purchase?

Base: Adults, age 18-24

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

%

%

%

Extremely/ Very Important (NET)

22

24

31

Extremely important

7

5

8

Very important

16

18

23

Fairly

31

30

31

Somewhat/ Not at all Important (NET)

47

47

37

Somewhat important

28

28

21

Not at all important

19

19

16

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


 

TABLE 2A

ATTITUDES TOWARD GREEN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

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

Base: All adults

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

%

%

%

SEEK OUT GREEN PRODUCTS (NET)

76

78

79

WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (SUB-NET)

32

28

31

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

3

3

4

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

2

2

2

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

26

23

24

NOT WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

45

49

49

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

29

32

30

ONLY IF SAVE MONEY (SUB-NET)

16

17

19

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

9

9

9

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

7

8

10

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

24

22

21

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

 

 

 

TABLE 2B

ATTITUDES TOWARD GREEN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES – Trend for 18-24 year olds

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

Base: Adults, age 18-24

2009

Total

2010

Total

2012 Total

%

%

%

SEEK OUT GREEN PRODUCTS (NET)

76

85

86

WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (SUB-NET)

25

27

35

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

3

3

11

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

3

0

1

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

20

24

23

NOT WILLING TO PAY EXTRA (NET)

51

58

51

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

33

41

29

ONLY IF SAVE MONEY (SUB-NET)

18

17

22

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

12

9

11

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

6

7

12

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

24

15

14

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

Q965, Q970, Q975

The Harris Poll ® #46, May 30, 2012

By David Goldstein, Research Manager, Harris Interactive

 

About Harris Interactive

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