Researchers at UCLA tested whether liberals were all talk when it comes to caring about the environment.
The findings: They are not, at least in the American West.
In a comparison of electricity bills and voter registration records of 280,000 households, left-leaning voters were found to be more likely to leave their lights and air conditioners switched off and conserve more energy — especially in the summertime — than were Republicans.
The difference in kilowatt hours suggests that left-leaning voters are less likely to respond to uncomfortable heat by reaching for thermostat. “Liberal households engage in voluntary restraint, largely by lowering air-conditioning in the summer relative to conservatives,” Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn write in the journal Economics Letters.
The difference between Democratic and Republican households’ electricity consumption was noticeable. But the difference between Green Party households and everybody else was particularly big. From the same article:
“We estimate that during the summer, Democrats consume 6.6 percent less electricity than observationally identical Republicans, while Green Party households consume 19.1 percent less electricity than Republican households. This larger summer differential is likely to be related to air-conditioning demand.
“Because electricity consumption is private information that is not observed by neighbors,” they add, “our results are explained by ideology—not by peer pressure.”
So while it’s hardly a complete answer to a looming problem, this research suggests that “voluntary restraint”—in this case, driven by political beliefs—“helps to mitigate the challenge of climate change.” It also tells cynics that the gap between belief and behavior may not be as wide as they assume.