Want Conservatives to Save Energy? Stop the Environmentalist Preaching
Comment of the Day

February 12 2015

Commentary by David Fuller

Want Conservatives to Save Energy? Stop the Environmentalist Preaching

Indeed, one company in the behavioral space, Simple Energy in Boulder, Colo. – an Opower rival – is examining political beliefs as just one factor out of many that may shape how people perceive energy messages. CEO and founder Yoav Lurie says his company has found, for instance, that terminology matters. “Liberal respondents tended to resonate well with the term ‘save energy,’ where conservative households resonated better with the term ‘waste less energy,’” he notes.

“It turns out that ‘waste less’ works in liberal households as well,” Lurie adds, “so you might just change that message to ‘waste less.’”

He emphasizes that his company is not selectively messaging to different consumers based on ideology, but it could be a potential way to reach people. When it comes to the message, Lurie says, “the thing we care about most is how it’s received.”

In the end, then, perhaps the best way to think about ideology and energy use is this: Nobody is against efficiency or lower bills. Nobody is for waste. Nobody hates the environment.

But environmental and energy issues are nevertheless wrapped up in politics, which makes conservation, overall, less of a “safe” space for conservatives, according to Renee Lertzman, who works with Brand Cool as Director of Insight and is a consultant on climate change communications. Conservatives often feel “ambivalent” about the topic, she says, pulled in different directions — and liberal assumptions don’t help.

“A lot of people I interviewed felt very offended that they were often assumed to be not caring, they felt very insulted and patronized, because of their choices, and I really felt for that,” Lertzman says. “I felt, it would be so important to convey to people, we know you really do care. And that itself, as a starting off point, would be very powerful.”

David Fuller's view

For me, this is all about emotional intelligence, which is incredibly important in so many aspects of life, although it is too often misunderstood and therefore seldom taught.  

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