Conservatives are less likely to purchase products labelled as environmentally friendly, according to research published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


"A popular strategy for marketing energy efficiency is to focus on its environmental benefits," Dena Gromet of the University of Pennsylvania, the lead author of the study, explained. "But not everyone values protecting the environment. We were interested in whether promoting the environment could in fact deter some individuals from purchasing energy efficient options that they would have otherwise selected."

A survey of 657 U.S. adults found those who described themselves as more politically conservative placed less of a value on reducing carbon emissions. Consequentially, they were less likely to support investment in energy-efficient technology than those who were more politically liberal.

This difference in attitudes had real-life effects. In an experiment involving 210 participants, those who described themselves as more conservative were less likely to purchase a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb for $1.50 over an incandescent bulb for 50 cents if the former displayed a sticker that said "Protect The Environment."

But when the CFL bulb lacked such a label, there was no significant difference between liberal and conservative buyers. The difference in purchasing preference also disappeared when both bulbs were priced at 50 cents, regardless of whether the bulbs were labeled or unlabeled.

"These findings demonstrate that a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful for making energy-efficient products appealing to consumers," Rick Larrick of Duke University, a co-author of the study, remarked. "People have different energy-related values which can influence their choices, including leading them to reject options that they recognize as having long-term economic benefits. In many cases, a tailored message may be needed to reach different market segments."

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[Eco superhero with CFL lightbulb via Shutterstock]