Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
Home |
The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
CHANDRA, S. C. & MORGAN, H. (2001). The Relationship Between Political Awareness and Conservation Attitudes and Behaviors. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 26, 2023 .

The Relationship Between Political Awareness and Conservation Attitudes and Behaviors

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (bhalla@loyno.edu)
AbstractThe basic purpose of this study was to determine if there was a positive correlation between levels of political awareness and conservation behaviors and attitudes, specifically in terms of recycling. Fifty-six participants from Loyola University were surveyed for this particular study. Participants were between the ages of eighteen and forty-two, and represented a number of different races. Thirty-seven of the participants were female which left nineteen of the participants being male. Political awareness and conservation attitudes were measured using a survey which was made by the researchers. Conservation behavior was measured by observing participants while in a copy room and observing whether or not they recycled or threw away pieces of paper. We hypothesized that those participants who recycled the paper would also express higher levels of political awareness. Our data and results have affirmed this original hypothesis and we have concluded that there is a positive correlation between the levels of political awareness and the conservation attitudes and behaviors of individuals.

As any resident would, we take pride in our homes and where we live. Whether we reside in an apartment, a duplex, a condo, or our own home, we take some aspect of pride in our living area. We try to maintain our residence as best we can and keep it in a good condition for living so we have a place to live, raise a family, or enjoy spending time with friends. Well, the earth is our home, and we are its residents. Just like any other home, we have a responsibility to take care of it and keep it generally clean and basically looked after. The earth is everyone’s responsibility, from the youngest child to the oldest senior citizen; we all have a role or part that we can play. Sadly, many of those parts go un-noticed or remain undone.Realistically one person cannot take care of or save the entire world. That is too big of a responsibility to bear. However, if all of us contribute and participate then the responsibility can be greatly reduced when distributed amongst us all. Recycling is one way to do this. It is not hard to separate paper from plastic and from glass. All it takes is training the mind to be aware of not only our every day problems but also their simple solutions. Recycling is something simple we can all do easily but due to a lack of awareness the number of people who recycle is much lower than it should ever be. But what is it that makes people recycle? In turn, what is it that makes people not recycle? Is there even anything that is actually making people recycle or not? Is there only one thing that contributes to people making the decision to recycle or not or is there a conglomeration of factors that contribute to that choice? One study conducted in 1998 looked at the motivations and behaviors that supported recycling. The results suggested that recycling researchers should pay attention to not only recycling attitudes but also to the processes involved in recycling. Although surveys suggest that Americans strongly support recycling, for a number of people it is looked at as a drudgery and inconvenience when a trashcan is so available. It was found that the two main reasons people claim for not recycling were inconvenience and a lack of time. “When a task is not inherently pleasurable or rewarding, people will not do it unless they have some reason to persist” (Werner 1998). If a person does continue these tasks then they will devise a way to make that task more interesting or pleasurable. Werner found that there were two reasons to persist in recycling. The first was holding favorable recycling attitudes to begin with. The second reason people continued recycling dealt with their social orientation. By this, they were referring to the people that they surrounded themselves with and whether or not they promote and encourage recycling. Their study found that those people who recycled found little joy or pleasure in it and affirmed the fact that most Americans view recycling as some sort of dreadful chore. Few people found any fun in recycling and those that did had pro-recycling attitudes anyway. Therefore, people persisted in recycling because either they already felt it important to begin with, or because those around them felt it was important so that encouraged them to recycle as well. The next set of research should be geared towards elevating people’s environmental and conservational awareness and education.Two years after Werner’s study, research was conducted which suggested that in order to raise environmental behavior, environmental education had to focus on changing the internal locus of control (Hwang 2000). The locus of control refers to an individual’s personal belief in whether or not he/she has the power to bring about change through his/her own behavior. The locus of control can either be external or internal. External locus of control means that changes happen by mere chance or by the intervention of powerful others such as the government or God. Internal locus of control refers to the belief that due to an internal motive one develops the expectation that one’s own activities are likely to bring about change. The results of this study suggested that an individual’s internal locus of control level could bring about a more positive attitude towards recycling. This positive attitude would then change the intention to act making it more likely for a person to recycle and adhere to that decision. Their conclusion was that the most important factor in improving the intention to act responsibly with regards to environmental behavior was the internal locus of control.There have been very few empirical studies done that specifically examine recycling behaviors and separate them from attitudes and intentions. The results of a study published in 1995 indicated that high income is a good predictor of recycling, whereas gender and age are not (Schultz 1995). In this study, they implemented rewards or prompts to promote the maintenance of recycling. They found that commitments, norms, prompts, goals, and the removal of barriers can all produce recognizable increases in recycling. However, these tools only seemed to be effective with people who already had favorable attitudes toward recycling. So, could it be that people who conduct positive conservational behaviors, such as recycling, also express pro-environmental attitudes? Two studies conducted in 1995 examined the relationship between environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behavior (Grob 1995). The two studies linked environmental awareness, emotions, personal-philosophical values, perceived control, and behavior. The main question of the study focused on whether and to what extent did an individual’s personal belief system affect environmental behavior. Throughout his study, Grob assumed that environmental degradation is caused by inappropriate human behavior. His results showed that the most important effects on environmental behavior stem from personal-philosophical values. The weakest effect was due to factual environmental awareness. He also found that the less control the participants perceived, the more appropriately they acted towards the environment. In his second study, Grob found that social group membership is also associated with differences in environmental attitudes and behaviors. All of these studies look at motivations and possible causes of recycling and other pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. They do not focus on the specifics of these motivations and possible causes. These studies have found possible categories of motivations that lead to these environmentally conscious behaviors. None have determined or even asked what specifically affects our attitudes and behaviors regarding conservation and the environment. However, none of these research studies have asked where these attitudes and behaviors stem from. Are these ideas of conservation born in people’s minds at birth or is it learned from something, someone, or somewhere? It is beneficial that we know what kinds of attitudes and behaviors are advantageous to recycling and conservation, but where exactly do these attitudes and behaviors come from? This question is the next step in this line of research. If we know the source of these attitudes and behaviors of conservation, then it would be possible to spread these conservation behaviors out further. All of this would be helpful in the people of earth coming together as a community and acting to ensure the upkeep of our home. In this study, we determined if there was a correlation between these attitudes and behaviors of conservation and an individual’s level of political awareness. This was measured by using a survey, which measured political, and conservation awareness as well as basic values. We observed participants in a copy room in the library on Loyola’s campus and watched to see if they disposed of paper in the trashcan or the provided recycling bin. They were then approached and asked to fill out a survey. We hypothesized that those participants who were more politically aware would be more inclined to recycle and have more positive attitudes and behaviors with regards to conservation. We also predicted that females and those involved with the humanities would have these higher levels of political awareness.

MethodParticipants Fifty-six participants were observed and surveyed, but the computer could not use five of the surveys when completing the statistical analysis. All of the participants in the study belonged to the faculty, staff, or student body of Loyola University in New Orleans. This sample was acquired by means of convenience sampling. The sample used comprised of participants between the ages of eighteen and forty-seven. Due to population ratios at Loyola, the participants consisted of thirty-two females and nineteen males. The majority of the participants were white, but there were participants with African, Latin, and Asian decent. The participants, both students and faculty, involved in the study spanned the entire field of majors offered at Loyola. The participants were involved with pre-med, business, management, music theory, music education, marketing, biology, drama, and psychology majors or departments. This information was obtained from questions in the survey. Participation was based solely on a voluntary basis and they were recruited using convenience sampling. The participants were approached and politely asked if they would like to take part in a research study. Materials For this experiment we used one survey, which we wrote ourselves, an informed consent sheet, and number two pencils were provided for the participants in order to sign the informed consent sheet and fill out and complete the survey. The other materials included the first floor copy room of Loyola University’s Monroe Library and the trash and recycling bins, which were provided by Loyola in the copy room. Loyola also supplied the paper the participants either recycled or threw away in the copying machines. The copy room itself was a narrow room with three copy machines lined up against the left side of the wall. Against the right side of the wall were two five-foot long tables. Between the tables, there was one big trashcan and one big blue BFI recycling bin. The survey was composed of demographic questions, political awareness questions, questions regarding conservation attitudes and behaviors, and questions asking the participants to rate their value systems. A full copy of the survey is attatched in the appendix section of this paper. The first part of the survey obtains background information of the participants such as age, sex, and educational background. The next set of questions in the survey sought to find out the level of political awareness of the participant as well as a general idea of basic values and what their attitudes towards conservation were like. Political awareness questions included asking how many Senators are in Congress and who the participants` hometown Senators are. Environmental awareness and conservation attitudes were measured using true- false questions such as, “George W. Bush’s energy plan provides more subsidies to renewable energy sources than to non-renewable energy sources. True or False?” The overall general values of each participant were measured using a typical values scale. The participants were asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 how important certain values were to them, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest rating. The values in question included “job satisfaction, wealth, world peace, and family.”Design & Procedure The design of this particular research study places it under the stipulations of a correlation study. Since our study was correlation, there were no independent and dependent variables. Instead, we measured the participants’ political awareness, conservation attitudes, as well as how they rated certain values. We then compared these measurements to the participants’ behavior of either recycling or throwing away the paper. The participants were first observed, without them knowing it, as they entered into the first floor copy room of Monroe Library on the campus of Loyola University of New Orleans. Only those people who disposed of paper were surveyed. The participants had to have either thrown the paper away in the trash or in the recycling bin provided by the Monroe Library. To be eligible for this study, the participant had to enter the copy room, make a copy, and then dispose of the paper in either the trashcan or recycling bin. Upon exiting the copy room, the experimenters approached the participant and asked if they would mind being involved in a research study. Some deception had to be used in order to lower the risk of social desirability, changing answers based on what society views as “good” and/or reactivity, changing responses because they think they will be judged or graded. Were the participants to be told that we were looking to see if there was a relationship between being politically aware and being more environmentally conscious then they may not have answered the survey honestly. This could have seriously been detrimental to our results. Therefore some deception is necessary, but it was cleared up in the debriefing. After the participant agreed to be part of the survey, they were asked to fill out an informed consent sheet, which the experimenter gave them. Once the informed consent sheet had been signed, the participant was given a survey and the experimenter explained that it would only take about ten to fifteen minutes of their time. Once the survey had been successfully completed, the experimenters then debriefed the participants. They were informed that the survey was in fact for a psychology research study. The experimenters also explained why deceiving the participants was necessary. At that time, the participants were allowed to voice any concerns and ask any questions he/she may have had. Before parting ways, the participant was reminded of the counseling services offered at Loyola University as well as given the necessary information to contact the IRB in case of any other future queries.

Results The means for political awareness, conservation attitudes, and behavior were .56 (.501), .75 (.440), and .82 (.386) respectively. With r = .145, political awareness showed a positive weak correlation with conservation attitudes with p > .05. Political awareness and behavior showed an r = .214 and p > .05, and t(50) = 3.256 with M = .26 and SD = .565 Conservation attitude and behavior had an r = .083 and p > .05, and t(51) = 1.0 and M = .08 and SD = .560. This study surveyed fifty-six participants who were coming out of the first floor copy room at Loyola University’s Monroe Library. These participants were only surveyed after recycling or throwing away paper after using the copying machines. The survey measured their levels of political awareness as well as their environmental knowledge and attitudes. Their conservation behavior was measured by observing if they recycled or threw away the paper. These results showed that there was no relationship between people’s political awareness, their environmental attitudes, and their resulting conservation behavior.

Discussion The original hypothesis that there would be a correlation between political awareness and conservation attitudes and the observed conservation behavior of recycling was supported to an extent. Although there was a positive correlation between the variables, it was not strong enough to be considered a significant factor. Our results showed that there is almost no relationship between a person’s political and environmental awareness and whether or not they recycle. The process of recycling seemed to be one of the contributing factors that lead to people not enjoying recycling or not doing it at all (Werner 1998). People saw the task of recycling as a daunting chore that they eventually stopped doing due to either an inconvenience or a lack of time. The results of this study support the excuse of inconvenience because only ten of our fifty-six participants threw paper away. The forty-six who did recycle may have done so because the recycling bin was so close to them in proximity. Those who did continue recycling enjoyed doing so or saw it as an important and easy way of helping out the community at large. Further studies sought to discover new ways or better ways of raising environmental awareness and attitudes through better environmental education. The best way to accomplish this goal was to change a person’s internal locus of control (Hwang 2000). Once education of the problem has been brought about by a changed internal locus of control, creating a more responsible environmental behavior would be much easier (Boersching 1993). It was found that individuals’ personal philosophical views were more of a contributing factor in recycling than education and environmental facts (Grob 1995). This study picked up were Grob left off. An individual’s personal philosophical views include their morals, ethical principles learned from school, teachers, and parents, as well as their political standpoint and interests. This study compared environmental attitudes and behaviors to one of those philosophical areas, politics. Therefore, we tried to determine if there in fact was a relationship between political awareness and conservation attitudes and behaviors, but the results did not concur with the hypothesis. The study could have been more accurate if it were not conducted in the copy room. The room always has a large blur bin marked for recycling. A person would almost have to deliberately not want to recycle to throw paper in the trash can. This was one of the limitations of the study along with the reliability and validity of the survey. The validity of this study could have been affected by other factors as well. First, the questions in the survey, except for the value questions, were concocted by ourselves. We did not know if the questions would accurately measure political awareness and environmental attitudes. Unfortunately, we did not have time to test if our measurement device was reliable or valid. We assumed it would suffice for our uses outside of the copy room. There are some implications that can be drawn from the conclusion of this study. Practically, we can assume that political awareness has little to do with people’s decision to recycle or not. In addition, a person’s environmental and conservational attitudes has no direct relationship with their political awareness. Theoretically, future researchers may want to focus more on other aspects of an individual’s personal philosophical code. Perhaps there is a correlation between recycling and a person’s ethics or morality. Future studies should use a larger and more diverse sample size. Although our sample was diverse, all the participants were taken from Loyola University, and therefore any results could only be generalizeable to Loyola University. Also, a study with a longitudinal design may be more valid and accurate when examining a topic of this nature. For example, ask neighborhoods to participate in a recycling program for one month. At the end of each week, ask each household how they felt about the experience. At the end of the month, find out who will continue recycling and who will not. At a later date, return to the neighborhood and ask those households that are still recycling why they did so. Then we may be able to further understand why people continue and persist in their recycling behaviors.

ReferencesBoerschig, S. & DeYoung, R. (1993). Evaluation of selected recycling curricula: Educating the green citizen. The Journal of Environmental Education, 24, 17-22.

Grob, A. (1995). A structural model of environmental attitudes and behaviour. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 209-220.

Hwang, Y., Kim, S., & Jeng, J. (2000). Examining the causal relationships among selected antecedents of responsible environmental behavior. The Journal of Environmental Education, 31, 19-25.

Schultz, P., Oskamp, S., & Mainieri, T. (1995). Who recycles and when? A review of personal and situational factors. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 105-121.

Werner, C. & Makela, E. (1998). Motivations and behaviors that support recycling. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18, 373-386.

White House (n.d) Policies in Focus. Retrieved October 5, 2000, from http://www.whitehouse.gov.


PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Drs. John Cornwell and Mukul Bhalla Heather Morgan and Sathish ChandraADDRESS and PHONE: Dept. of PsychologyLoyola University New Orleans, LA 70118 (504) 865 3125

I understand that I have been asked to participate in a study looking at attitudes and behavior of conservation and how that relates to political awareness. I understand that all the opinions I give will be from my own experience and judgment and that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer that will be judged. I understand that I will be asked to give information about my level of political and environmental awareness and my own basic values. I understand that I will be asked to answer some questions regarding my age, sex, major in school etc. All these tasks will take no more than a total of 20-30 minutes. Before giving my consent by signing this form, I have been sufficiently informed of the purpose of the study and have had the opportunity to ask any questions of the principal investigator regarding this study and my participation in this study. I understand that my identity and all information relating to me will be kept in strict confidence and that only the principal investigator will have knowledge of my identity. My name and signature as they appear on the consent form will be seen only by the principal investigator. My data will be assigned a code number, which will not be associated with my name. I understand that any public report of the results of this study will contain only summarized data, and will not contain any individual data. I understand that I may withdraw my permission at any time and that I may telephone the principal investigator at the number given above or contact the investigator at the address given above in order to ask questions about my participation in the study. I understand that I may see the summarized results after 25 December 2001 posted at the following web address: http://www.clearinghouse.mwsc.edu/ I have read and understand the information given above and I sign this consent form willingly.

PRINTED NAME: _________________________________ DATE: __________ SIGNED NAME: _________________________________LOCAL ADDRESS: _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ Please take 20 minutes to provide us with the following information about yourself:1. Age ______years

2. Sex (circle one): M F

3. Major/Occupation: ____________________________________

4. Year (circle one): FR SO JR SR

5. Are you a registered voter? (Circle one): Y N If so, what is your political affiliation/leaning? (ex. Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian) ____________________________

6. Who are the senators of the state in which you are registered to vote? If not Louisiana then name the state. If you are not a registered voter please give the names of the senators of your permanent residence as well as the state. Please PRINT their names legibly. ______________________________________ ______________________________________

7. In what congressional district are you a registered voter? Who is your representative? If not a registered voter, then name the district number and representative of your permanent residence.

District # _______ Representative___________________________

8. Greenpeace is one of the organizations representing the U.S. government in conservation issues Circle one T F Don’t know

9. The 3.2 billion barrels of oil estimated by the United States Geological Survey to be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at current consumption rates will last how long?

a. 3 months b. 6 months c. 1 year d. 3 years

10. The greenhouse effect and ozone depletion are in fact the same phenomenon. Circle one T F Don’t know

11. Bush’s current energy plan proposed to congress this past session provides more subsidies to renewable energy sources than to nonrenewable energy sources because by meeting more or less 90% of our energy needs, nonrenewable energy sources are self funding and thus do not need extra funds.

Circle One: T F Don’t know

12. Recycling does not have great economic advantages but it is good for other reasons.

Circle one: T F Don’t know

13. Who is the current Secretary of State? _____________________ Don’t know

14. The president plans to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by increasing the 18.7 billion dollars currently available to ESEA programs to 20.6 billion dollars. But then only making these funds available to schools that pass federal standardized tests. To ensure that students pass, schools will be held to federally devised curriculums enforced by each state. Circle One: T F Don’t know

15. According to an executive order, there now exists the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to carry out charitable efforts.

Circle One: T F Don’t know

16. The government predicts that fifteen years, the baby boomer population will bankrupt Medicare.

Circle One: T F Don’t know

17. Switching products because of environmental reasons is foolish

Circle One: T F

18. Reading a book or a magazine that is informative about the environment is not something I would find pleasurable or useful if I had a lot of free time.

Circle One: T F

19. Americans should not have to worry about rate of consumption of resources, because scientists will figure something out using new technology.

Circle One: T F

20. Voting for a public official because of his or her environmental stance is not as important as voting for someone because of his or her stance on the economy

Circle One: T F

21. Taking in to account the amount of packaging on the goods you buy is not a very effective way of conserving resources.

Circle One: T F

22. Recycling paper, plastics, glass, and aluminum cans is an effective ways for individuals to conserve.

Circle One: T F

23. Human activity in nature can cause negative consequences. Take for example, the erosion of Louisiana’s coast.

Circle One: T F

24. Natural balance is often upset in Louisiana; take for example, hypoxia and the dead zone in coastal waters.

Circle One: T F

25. The plants, animals, and minerals within Louisiana belong to the residents of the state, and are theirs to manage in a way that best serves the economy’s needs right now.

Circle One: T F

26. Riding my bike or walking is an effective way of fighting the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion.

Circle One: T FPlease rank each column’s values from 1 to 10; one being the most important and 10 being the least. Please rank each column’s values from 1 to 10; one being the most important and 10 being the least._____ Happiness; satisfaction in life_____ Knowledge and wisdom_____ Peace and harmony in the world_____ Pride in accomplishment_____ Prosperity; wealth_____ Lasting Friendships_____ Recognition from peers_____ Salvation; finding eternal life_____ Security; freedom from threat_____ Self-respect _____ Assertive ness; standing up for yourself _____ Being helpful or caring toward others_____ Dependability; being counted upon by others_____ Education and intellectual pursuits_____ Hard work and achievement_____ Obedience: following the wishes of others_____ Open-mindedness; receptivity to new ideas_____ Self-sufficiency; independence_____ Truthfulness; honesty_____ Being well-mannered and courteous toward others

Submitted 12/18/2001 2:23:29 AM
Last Edited 12/18/2001 2:31:37 AM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

Rated by 0 users. Users who logon can rate manuscripts and write reviews.

© 2023 National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. All rights reserved. The National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse is not responsible for the content posted on this site. If you discover material that violates copyright law, please notify the administrator. This site receives money through the Google AdSense program when users are directed to useful commercial sites. We do not encourage or condone clicking on the displayed ads unless you have a legitimate interest in the advertisement.