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Conservatives And Liberals Have Same Energy Usage Patterns?

Opower is a software company focused on increasing energy efficiency with utility providers, homeowners and businesses. Their technology performs energy and usage pattern analyses and frequently sends reports to their customers so they can understand how to save money on their energy bills. (President Obama visited in their Arlington headquarters in 2010 and called their company a success story in a challenging economy.)

Image Credit: Public Domain

Image Credit: Public Domain

Recently Opower conducted a study of individual energy consumption and personal politics. They gathered data for about 100,000 Midwestern utility customers participating in Opower programs and then identified their political party affiliations. They found that Liberal and Conservative customers both consumed about the same amount of energy per household. The Conservative customers consumed only about 3% more than the Liberals. Some might have expected Conservative consumption to be much higher, but energy usage levels between the two groups were very similar.

Actually, it was the Conservatives who saved slightly more energy than the Liberals, after both groups started receiving their regular Opower energy reports. The Opower analysis also compared similar datasets for their customers in the Northeast and Southeast. The findings were very similar for Liberals and Conservatives in these regions as well.

Further, Opower’s analyses generated an insight that contradicted a study conducted at UCLA in 2011 by 1, UCLA economists Dora Costa and Matt Kahn.
The UCLA researchers had found that conservative homeowners, upon hearing
they were doing well with their energy consumption, would actually increase it. This reversal was called the back-fire effect. However, Opower found that with their customers, receiving energy usage reports caused them to reduce their energy consumption even more. This decrease was found in both Liberal and Conservative customers.

So, while political debates tend to become very charged in Congress, news media and online, it appears that many people with different political perspectives have very similar behavior when it comes to their home energy usage.

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