“Responsible” cosumption in America

In: Uncategorized

13 Sep 2009

An interesting article in Time magazine on what it calls “a responsibility revolution” among American consumers. After describing how companies, even including Walmart, are becoming more “responsible” it goes on to discuss the attitudes of American consumers.

“Our poll found Americans divided pretty evenly into three categories we’re calling the Responsibles, the Toe Dippers and the Skeptics. The Toe Dippers embrace some of the ideas of responsible consuming but don’t act on many of them, while the Skeptics just think [Milton] Friedman was right.

“The Responsibles, however, are in the vanguard and represent 38% of Americans 18 and older, or about 86 million people. They are more likely than Toe Dippers or Skeptics to be female, married, African American and college-educated. They tend to be well-off but not wealthy, and they have done many things that people in the other groups haven’t, such as buying a household appliance on the basis of its energy rating or a product because they like the values of the company that made it. While they are particularly concerned about the environment, they are much more willing than the others to pay more in federal taxes to deal with social issues like universal health care. They do not fit neatly into any political category: a third are liberal, 37% are conservative, and 28% are moderate. They are younger than the Skeptics and more diverse and look more like what America will look like in 20 or 30 years.”

It is interesting that the “responsibles” are apparently largely middle class and roughly evenly split between liberals and conservatives. It is also noteworthy that the “toe dippers” constitute a significant category.

The article is accompanied by an interview with Barack and Michelle Obama in which the president welcomes the trend towards “responsibility”:

“Well, I think this is a positive thing, and it speaks to something we’ve tried to express during the campaign — Washington hasn’t quite caught up to it yet — and that is that a traditional argument was between those who thought government could do everything and those who thought government shouldn’t do anything. And even the way you framed the description spoke a little to that old paradigm: liberal, moderate, conservative. My sense is what people are looking for now is a sense of responsibility and intentionality, in that your actions have consequences, and we want our government to be responsible.”