Energy survey finds environmental concern across all income groups

In this second quarterly report by the University of Michigan Energy Survey, a notable finding is that U.S. consumers express similar levels of concern about the impact of energy on the environment regardless of their household income.

Analyzing data collected in October 2013 and January 2014, we found that the number of consumers who said that they worried either a “great deal” or a “fair amount” about energy’s environmental impact held steady across the income brackets, averaging close to 60%. What is also striking about this result is that the degree of concern about the environment nominally edges out concern about energy costs.

As might be expected, the level of concern about the affordability of energy declines as household income rises. A similar pattern is seen in how much consumers worry about energy reliability. So the surprise finding is how environmental concern is just as strong for lower income consumers as it is for higher income consumers.

Moreover, consumers attached a similar degree of importance to their concern about the impact of energy on the environment during the January survey as they did in October. This is in spite of the fact that many parts of the country experienced unusually frigid weather and hikes in energy prices this winter.

While home energy bills rose in January compared to October, the level of monthly energy bill that consumers said that they would find unaffordable did not significantly change. Although we did not probe the reasoning behind these responses, a likely explanation is that many consumers expect their bills to change as the weather changes and so had no reason to believe that seasonal variations would change what they feel they can afford to pay for energy.

For more findings based on the first two quarters of the data, download the report, “University of Michigan Energy Survey: Results through January 2014.”