Mother Jones reports on a remarkable new study that shows that some conservatives are actually less likely to choose a product if they are told that it will use less energy and thus be better for the environment. Here’s how the study actually worked:
A study out today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined attitudes about energy efficiency in liberals and conservatives, and found that promoting energy-efficient products and services on the basis of their environmental benefits actually turned conservatives off from picking them. The researchers first quizzed participants on how much they value various benefits of energy efficiency, including reducing carbon emissions, reducing foreign oil dependence, and reducing how much consumers pay for energy; cutting emissions appealed to conservatives the least.
The study then presented participants with a real-world choice: With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school light bulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL), the same kind Bachmann railed against. Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost the same, and even when the CFL cost more, conservatives and liberals were equally likely to buy the efficient bulb. But slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says “Protect the Environment,” and “we saw a significant drop-off in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option,” said study author Dena Gromet, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business…
Gromet said she never expected the green message to motivate conservatives, but was surprised to find that it could in fact repel them from making a purchase even while they found other aspects, like saving cash on their power bills, attractive. The reason, she thinks, is that given the political polarization of the climate change debate, environmental activism is so frowned upon by those the right that they’ll do anything to keep themselves distanced from it.
“When we’re given an option where the choice is made to represent a value that we don’t identify with or that our ideological group doesn’t value,” she said, “this can turn the purchase into something undesirable. By making [the environment] part of the choice, even though they might see the economic benefit, they no longer want to put their money toward that option.”
This shouldn’t be a surprise. In 2011, the conservative blog Red State actually urged people to celebrate “earth hour,” when people all over the world were encouraged to turn their lights off, by turning more lights on. In 2009, Rush Limbaugh said he planned to make sure all his cars are driven more on Earth Day and that his plane takes a long trip for no reason too. And Glenn Beck said he wanted to hear from people who planned to cut down trees on Earth Day. The next year Beck announced that he would celebrate Earth Day by burning styrofoam in his back yard. The one thing conservatism clearly does not represent today is any desire to engage in conservation.
Even if you don’t believe that we should adopt a certain policy to clean up the environment and even if you think global warming is a giant hoax, it still can’t be a good thing to waste energy and cause more pollution. I mean, not to any minimally rational person. But this is where the right wing is today, utterly irrational and driven solely by a desire to distinguish themselves from their political enemies.
I think Andrew Sullivan nails this one:
This is really a form of tribal nihilism. One party has become entirely about a posture, not a set of feasible policies. I can see no reason whatever that conservatism must mean destroying the environment – or refusing to do even small ameliorative things that can help…Snark is not a policy, although it may be a successful talk radio gimmick.