How Much it Too Much? A Public Opinion Perspective

An overview of public opinion research on attitudes, values and behaviors related to consumption and the sociopolitical divisions commonly seen in the climate change debate.




  • The research found strong consistent public support for the idea that “our country would be better off if we all consume less.”
  • Lowering consumption has broader social agreement across partisan divides than climate concern.
    • The fact that consumption is more visible than climate change may activate greater concern.
    • Segments of the public with low levels of concern about climate change agreed strongly with the concept of consuming less.
    • Segments of the public that were already concerned about climate change had slightly higher levels of concern about consumption.
  • Evidence suggests that society must change the present economic model to either increase efficient and "green" technologies or decrease material consumption (i.e. "progress" vs. "well-being").
  • The concept of "consuming" was commonly perceived as reducing fuel, energy, or garbage.
  • Further research is needed to understand overconsumption and behavior change, particularly to explore the gap between attitudes and behaviors among individuals who express concern about climate change and exhibit large carbon footprints.
  • Policymakers are often unsupportive of behavior change efforts to lower consumption. Grassroots shifts in public attitudes may be necessary to leverage change at individual and policy levels.
Date: 2012
Authors: Tom Bowerman
Organization: PolicyInteractive
Strategic Approach: Audiences, Evaluation, Other
Author: Tom Bowerman
Organization: PolicyInteractive
Strategic Approach: Audiences, Evaluation, Other

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