When it comes to the environment, many conservatives don’t like conserving

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-05-01

Not everybody loves a parade, either.

Energy efficiency is often a hard sell in the US. Energy efficient devices can require a bit more money up front, which is then paid back gradually often over the course of several years. But a new study in the latest edition of PNAS suggests that the problem isn't only a matter of economics—instead, like so much else, energy efficiency has become politicized. Because they so strongly object to the thought of climate change, many conservatives won't spend more for energy-efficient light bulbs if their packaging contains a message about cutting carbon emissions.

The study had two parts. All participants were asked a bit about their demographic information and their political leanings. Then, one set was asked a series of questions about energy efficiency, which gauged how much the participants valued things like energy independence, limiting carbon emissions, or simply saving money on energy.

In the initial analysis, each of these factors appeared to be a negative for the conservatives, which didn't make a lot of sense—who actually devalues saving money on energy? But the lack of enthusiasm for curbing carbon emissions among the conservatives was rather dramatic, so the authors separated that out. When it was controlled for, it turns out that the conservatives in the study actually valued energy independence and saving money more than the more liberal study participants. It's just that they disliked the thought of avoiding carbon emissions so much that it overwhelmed these tendencies. (This effect was much stronger among conservative males.)

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