University of Michigan launches new energy survey

U-M Energy Institute joins with Institute for Social Research to carry out innovative polling about consumer attitudes on the cost, reliability and environmental impact of energy. 

Here at the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI) we’ve just launched a survey to track U.S. consumer attitudes about the vital topic of energy. To be conducted quarterly, this new survey asks consumers across the nation about the affordability of electricity and gasoline as well as other ways that energy affects their daily lives.

Polling for the Energy Survey is performed in collaboration with the university’s Institute for Social Research (ISR). For more than 60 years, ISR has conducted the benchmark University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, which probe how Americans perceive the state of the economy and produce the highly influential indices of consumer sentiment and consumer expectations. ISR is one of the world’s most prestigious social science research organizations and a leader in the development and application of survey methodology.

We created the Energy Survey with a unique focus on personal concerns about how energy affects consumers’ everyday lives. This careful, psychologically-based approach is designed to make the U-M Energy Survey different from other surveys that typically highlight consumer responses to the more politically driven debates of the day. The survey is directed by John DeCicco, research professor at UMEI and nationally known expert on energy and environmental issues. The Energy Survey questionnaire is executed as a quarterly rider on the Surveys of Consumers, which are directed by Richard Curtin, an ISR research professor and expert on consumer economic attitudes.

The U-M Energy Survey probes consumer views and beliefs with the aim of generating consistently reliable data to support and inspire well-informed discussions of key energy issues and policy. It includes 18 new questions that accompany the Surveys of Consumers, which uses a nationally representative sample of 500 U.S. households interviewed by phone each month. The first Energy Survey was done in October 2013 and it will be conducted in January, April, July and October of each year.

Overall, the Energy Survey will poll consumers to assess:

  • General consumer attitudes and beliefs about energy
  • Concerns about energy reliability, affordability and environmental effects
  • Attitudes about the costs of home energy and gasoline
  • How consumers perceive the influence of energy on their health and the environment
  • Consumer expectations for future cost of energy and its impact on the environment
  • What consumers say about conserving energy for reasons of cost or environmental impact

The survey respondents are classified by region, whether they rent or own homes, property values, household income and how knowledgeable they consider themselves to be about energy. About 37 percent of the sample is comprised of consumers from the South, 25 percent are from the Midwest, 22 percent from the West and 16 percent from the Northeast. The survey sample is divided into thirds by household income, and results are also classified by property value and whether the respondents own or rent their homes. About one-quarter of the sample falls into each of the four housing-related categories: renters and the bottom, middle and top thirds of home owners based on respondent-reported property value.

The first report from the survey, issued this month and based on the October 2013 data, finds that three-quarters of respondents feel their energy sources are reliable and that while Americans are concerned about energy affordability, energy costs would have to more than double before most consumers would consider it unaffordable.

To read about all of the findings, download the full report: University of Michigan Energy Survey: Results from October 2013 Sample [PDF].