Polarization in sustainability? The explanatory power of concern and left-right placement on environmentally significant behaviors among Swedes
Environmentally significant behavior is becoming an increasingly relevant topic in environmentally focused research, which aims to explain why people adopt these behaviors and thus understand how sustainability can be promoted. A long-held perception of environmental behavior is that it is more commonly occurring among “leftists” because they have been shown to exhibit higher levels of environmental concern. Concern has, however, widely been deemed insufficient as a predictor of environmentally significant behavior. In this study, a series of linear regressions are conducted using data from the SOM (2018) National survey, to determine how polarized environmental behavior is among the Swedish public and to what extent left-right placement predicts this behavior. This by comparing the explanatory power of left-right placement and two forms of environmental concern on recycling and consumption habits. I also study differences in environmental concern between people on the left and the right and find that rightists express higher levels of concern for environmental destruction than for climate change. My main finding is that left-right placement has a weaker relationship with environmentally significant behaviors than environmental concern, and that the correlation between left-right placement and recycling behavior, specifically, is virtually nonexistent. This study therefore contradicts previous studies linking left-right placement to environmentally significant behavior. I theorize that this could indicate the presence of a more widespread norm surrounding recycling and propose that future research explore this further.