Clean energy may be a partisan issue in Washington, D.C. (see the No More Solyndras act that recently passed in the House). But things are different outside of the beltway.
According to a new survey of 2,334 U.S. adults from home solar company Sunrun, Mitt Romney voters are actually more likely than Obama voters to have made "green" home improvements in the past five years (permanent changes like installing solar panels, low-flow shower heads, energy-efficient lightbulbs, and so forth), with 64% of Romney voters making these changes and 58% of Obama voters making green improvements. How can this be when the Republican Party dropped energy efficiency from its platform this year?
Washington, D.C., politics simply don’t reflect what’s happening on the ground. "We are seeing solar energy almost portrayed as a political debate on Capitol Hill," says Sunrun Consumer Educator Susan Wise. "In reality, we look at our customer base and actually a majority of our customers are Republicans." That’s because saving money is the biggest reason that people surveyed—both Obama and Romney supporters—made green home improvements.
Some other highlights from the survey:
- Romney votes are more likely to have installed low-flow toilets and bought energy-efficient appliances than Obama voters. But Obama voters are more likely to eat organic foods, unplug electronics when not in use, and recycle—in other words, to make lifestyle changes.
- Saving money is the top reason to make green home improvements for both Obama voters (84%) and Romney voters (87%). Obama and Romney voters also are in close agreement on other reasons to make these changes: improving family health (60% vs. 54%, respectively) and helping America become less dependent on other countries (50% vs. 47%).
- Obama voters, however, are much more likely to cite concern for the planet (58%) as a reason to make green home improvements compared to Romney voters (27%).
DBL Investors also released a report (PDF) this month showing that clean-tech jobs tend to be clustered in small, Republican-leaning states. The authors write: "Outside of the capital, where governors (and mayors) are more concerned with creating jobs than scoring debate points, there is no controversy about the impact of clean tech." The same could be said about the cash-saving impact of energy-efficient technologies on individual homes.
Still, the home solar industry has barely tapped the market—only 3% of Romney voters and 2% of Obama voters have installed solar-power systems in the past half decade. So, though 27% of survey respondents want to install a solar-power system in the future, there’s still a long way to go on both sides of the aisle.