Americans' Interest in Green Sags During Downturn

Americans' Interest in Green Sags During Downturn

A growing number of American consumers would like to tell President Obama to focus on the economy first before tackling environmental issues, according to research published today.

The finding, part of the monthly Green Confidence Index, is that while significant numbers of Americans support the administration's environmental stance, their principal concern remains focused on the economy. The number of Americans preferring that the president "focus on the economy first" or "keep a balanced perspective" rose over the past month, while the number urging President Obama to "educate us about the issues" dropped.

The Green Confidence Index is a monthly snapshot of Americans' attitudes about and confidence in their leaders and institutions, nationally and locally, on the subject of environmental responsibility, as well as in their own understanding of issues and their willingness to make green purchasing choices. During October, the Index fell four points from a month earlier, from 103.6 to 99.5. The Index was set in July 2009 at 100.0.

According to Chief Research Officer Amy Hebard of Earthsense, whose company creates the Index: "Should we worry about a four-point drop in the Index? Not yet. Confusion in this market is broad and deep and, with the economy still in jitters, consumers' confidence in going green will take time to build before we realize the pent-up demand we've seen. As we approach the holiday season, a key question will be whether or not the drop we saw in October is the start of a downward slide or just a one-month blip."

The Index is based on a monthly survey of more than 2,500 adults who are nationally representative of the U.S. adult online population. It is calculated using responses in three areas:

• Responsibility: how leaders and institutions are perceived to be addressing environmental issues (weight: 40 percent)
• Information: the adequacy of information available to make informed decisions (20 percent)
• Purchasing: past and future purchases of green products (40 percent)

In the most recent monthly report, fewer consumers reported that they feel they have adequate information to make green decisions. One of the bigger drops was with household appliances, where just over half (53.2 percent) feel they have sufficient information, down over 3 percentage points. This may not bode well for the federal Cash for Clunkers appliance rebate initiative, part of the stimulus program, launching nationwide in the next few months. According to the Green Confidence Index, consumers want answers to some key questions: What's the guarantee old appliances will be disposed of properly? Will new appliance purchases increase personal debt at a time when many families' finances are stretched to the limit? Will these be limited to American-made products to stimulate the U.S. economy?

"As President Obama makes his plans to go and sell a climate change agenda in Copenhagen next month, he also needs to think about how he'll sell his plan at home as Americans feel the impact of the economy, and more specifically unemployment, shade their views about the green economy," said John Davies, Vice President of GreenBiz Intelligence, a unit of Greener World Media, co-publisher of the Index with Earthsense and Survey Sampling International.

The Green Confidence Index is a subscription-based service. Annual subscriptions are $499, with charter subscriptions available at $299 through December 31, 2009.

More information and a sample copy of the monthly briefing can be downloaded at GreenConfidenceIndex.com.