5.1. Environmental and Energy Use Attitudes
In the following, we will analyse the primary differences between the four principal components related to energy use and environmental awareness in each country, and their differences across socio-demographic variables.
5.1.1. Differences by Country
When evaluating individuals’ environmental responsibility
, we examined whether environmental awareness is important for individuals, whether they live in an environmentally friendly way, and consider themselves to be environmentalists. In this field, the results are the most positive in Italy and Hungary, and they are much more committed to environmental responsibility than the Dutch or Swiss respondents. The results in Italy show a particularly strong self-image. The Swiss results express criticality, but the results are close to the average. The most divergent to negatives tend to be the Dutch opinions, results express a clear negative, rejecting attitude, they consider themselves to be the least environmentally conscious, for whom environment consciousness is not important and they do not live in an environmentally conscious way, as Table 9
In the domain of attitudes towards the environmental responsibility of energy companies, on the other hand, the Swiss and the Dutch are generally satisfied with their attitudes towards the environment, but the Swiss tend to have a negative view of the activities of these organisations in terms of protecting the environment and minimising their impact on the environment. Italian respondents are the most satisfied with the environmental activities of energy suppliers. Based on the Hungarian responses, satisfaction with Hungarian organisations lags far behind the functioning of organisations in other countries, and in this sense, there is strong distrust in Hungary towards service provider organisations.
With the environmental responsibility moral dimension, we looked at individuals’ attitudes, in particular, how much of a moral, principled, and personal responsibility issue it was for them to use energy sustainably. The Swiss respondents are the most critical in this area, and they describe their own sense of responsibility in the most negative way. In Italy, individuals rate themselves as average but tend to consider their own attitudes as negative. The Dutch value it highly, and Hungarian respondents also say they are extremely committed.
With the social dimension of environmental responsibility, we measured how important it is for individuals to use energy sustainably. Respondents in Switzerland, Italy and Hungary feel that sustainability as important to the people with whom they are related or who are important or important to them, and it is characterised by average, but positive values. The Dutch also think similarly, they value their own personal relationships along with the average but tend to be slightly negative. Hungarian results are the best. Hungarian respondents characterise their environment with slightly above average environmental awareness and sustainable energy use.
If personal (moral) dimensions are compared with environmental (social) dimensions, we find that the Swiss consider the behaviour of their social environment much more positively than their own, and they seem to perceive their reference group as being more responsible and aware compared to themselves. The Italian respondents are surrounded by a typical social environment that behaves similarly to themselves. The Dutch consider themselves very positive and above average, while their environment is perceived as average, and even slightly more negative, while the Hungarian respondents consider themselves and those around them equally above average and highly committed in the field of environmental sustainability.
In the field of differences between countries, in Switzerland, respondents were dissatisfied with almost all dimensions, with average or above-average negative ratings, highly critical of themselves, with the exception of people in their environment who were perceived to have a moderately positive attitude towards themselves. In the Netherlands, they are very critical of their own environmental responsibility, they also tend to have a negative view of their environment but less critically, although the results are rather close to average.
In Italy, most dimensions were rated positively, especially individual and organisational behaviours. In both cases, they tend to consider the attitudes of themselves and the people surrounding them to be average, though they tend to view their own assessment negatively. In Hungary, all values are more positive than the average except for their opinion of energy suppliers, to which Hungarian respondents reacted very critically.
5.1.2. Differences according to Household Size
According to the results, the size of the households is irrelevant in most cases to the principal components, except for the “Own Environmental Responsibility” dimension as shown by Table 10
In the whole sample, the environmentally-conscious behaviour of individuals may be considered as average, slightly differently in households with 1 and 3 persons, and slightly positive in households with 2 or 4 persons. This is likely to indicate that singles and households with children, on average, pay attention to environmental protection and eco-friendly behaviour and are slightly negative or slightly positive, but nowhere is this marked by over-dissatisfaction or over-satisfaction.
5.1.3. Differences according to Educational Qualifications
Qualifications affect all major components except the “Environmental Responsibility of Energy Companies” key component, as Table 11
For each of the three principal components, average values were obtained for all qualifications. In particular, we find differences in slightly negative or slightly positive ratings.
Those with a basic education value all dimensions positively and even the moral attitude of themselves and their environment is slightly above the average. On the other hand, they are in line with the average terms of environmentally friendly behaviours, which also means their own active involvement. Those with the lowest levels of education had the highest average scores.
The opinion of those without a baccalaureate i.e. skilled workers and vocational school graduates is the most balanced in the positive, all values are in the positive range and also are in line with the average rating.
Graduates appear to be slightly more critical of themselves and are slightly below the average with regard to their personal environmental behaviour and moral principles. At the same time, they view their social environment more positively, associating a more positive image with those who live in their environment than to themselves. On the other hand, they evaluate their personal environmental responsibility and active environmental friendliness above the average.
Graduates are critical in a different way from high school graduates, their opinions have deviated to the negative in two cases. Among them, their own environmental responsibility and the environmental behaviour of the people who are important to them received a more negative evaluation, close to the average. They were less critical of their own moral values, and they characterized it as average but positive. The higher educated seem to be slightly more critical of themselves than the lower educated, with the highest average score given to themselves by the elementary level educated.
Those with postgraduate qualification show some critical attitudes, both in their own environmental responsibility and in their moral judgment. Their scores deviate from the average to the negative, however, compared to themselves, they characterised the behaviour of people living in their environment as average, but in the more positive range.
However, from the direction of the differences according to major components, the results show that the environmentally-conscious self-image, the environmentally friendly lifestyle, and the environmental behaviour at the upper-end point of qualifications cause some dissatisfaction and a negative deviation from the average. On the moral level, the higher educated tend to be slightly more dissatisfied or more critical, the averages of graduates and postgraduates got close to zero but in the negative range, while the lowest educated feel that they think more responsibly about environmental responsibility than those with higher qualification. The same is true with regard to the individual’s social environment, here also those with lower levels of education being the least critical of the environmentally-conscious behaviour of the people who come into contact with them, while they assess it at all other levels as average.
5.1.4. Differences according to Employment Status
shows the differences in attitudes among employment status. Full-time employees are slightly negative, but on average satisfied with their own environmentally conscious behaviour, they also have a moderate level of trust in energy companies and believe that they provide for counteracting environmental impacts in an acceptable way. They judge their own moral responsibility also in this way and see people in their environment who are important for them as themselves. In this sense, they live in a homogeneous value environment. Respondents who work full-time consider their overall attitude to environmental protection to be nearly average, although all values are in the negative range, indicating that they are not fully satisfied, some criticism and self-criticism are perceivable in their responses.
Part-time employees judge most areas relatively negatively, with their responses being in the negative range, with one exception. There is some criticism of their own environmental roles and values, which they rated as average but not positive. They considered only the organisations’ environmentally conscious behaviour to be good on average, and in everything else, they view themselves and their environment more critically.
Freelancers and entrepreneurs are not as critical as the previous group, but they not only judged their own environmentally friendly behaviours a bit more critical but average but also characterized those around them with somewhat negative, average behaviours.
Pensioners see their own environmentally conscious behaviour higher, then other groups: they gave themselves the highest average score within each employment group, but this is still closer to the average, though in the positive value range. Responsible behaviour and thinking of those around them were similarly valued. In one single principal component, in their own moral attitudes, we find some critical expression, their values are almost average, but still more positive here.
Of the five main employment groups, students’ results differ most significantly from any evaluation so far. Students are the absolute critical group. Beyond their own moral values, they are completely dissatisfied with above-average or near-average negative results in the case of every principal component. In particular, they are very dissatisfied with the environmentally-conscious behaviour of their own and the energy service provider companies, and less so, less critically, on average, they assess positively what is represented in their own moral values and, in the same way, average, but negatively about their experience in their own environment.
Evaluating the results from the direction of the four principal components, full-time, part-time workers and students were more critical in issues related to their own environmental responsibility, and full-time workers and students with the attitude of service provider organisations In the field of moral expectations towards themselves, the employees (full, part, entrepreneurs) gave a near negative assessment close to the average, while the non-employed (pensioners, students) gave a close to average positive. In the field of moral considerations, also similar results were obtained for the employed and the non-employed. Their personal environment was positively evaluated only by pensioners and the unemployed, with all other employment groups showing more or less dissatisfaction.
The analysis of our results in the domain of environmental consciousness shows a significant difference in the four countries (The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary) in terms of environmental responsibility among their residents. The countries are divided into two distinct subgroups: The Netherlands-Switzerland and Italy-Hungary. The Dutch and Swiss respondents are self-critical and unsatisfied with the level of their environmental consciousness, whereas Italian and Hungarian respondents feel that they are environmentally conscious and have embraced environmentally-friendly lifestyles. Dutch and Hungarian respondents strongly believe that they are committed to protecting the environment, in contrast with the Swiss and Italians, who are not satisfied with their commitment level. The social environment can influence individual behaviour and serve as a reference for values and norms. Studying such factors have resulted in a finding that Hungarian and Italian respondents tend to live in a social environment that is about as environmentally conscious as they are, while the Dutch are not satisfied with those who surround them and consider themselves a more positive example, and the Swiss are generally unsatisfied with their own commitment and view their social environment as a more positive example. Beyond sociodemographic differences, results are also dependent on how informed residents of each country are on the given subject, and how much knowledge they have obtained to make informed individual decisions. Local opinions regarding sustainable behaviours, and how much need there is for sustainability, are influenced by various strategies in each country, targeting specific populations and shaping their views.
5.2. Factors Influencing Attitudes towards Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency
In the following, we present eight linear regressions to test the effects of the different factors of environmental and energy use attitudes.
In Model A1, B1, C1 and D1 we analysed the effect of individual characteristics and characteristics of the home on energy use and environmental attitudes. In the case of each attitude, we built a similar model. We measured personal characteristics by age, gender, employment status, educational level. These latter two variables were dummy variables. We measured the characteristics of the building by the type of the home, whether it is a flat or a house, by the size of the home in square meters and by the number of electronic appliances used in the home.
presents the first four model. In Model A2, B2, C2 and D2 we added to the previous model also country variable, as dummy variables to the analysis. The results are presented in the following tables.
The explanation power of Model A1, on analysing the factors influencing environmental self-identity is 8.3%. Among the individual characteristics gender, and age have a significant effect, while all the home characteristics, the type of the household, the size of the home and the number of electronic appliances significantly affects environmental self-identity. According to our data, males tend to keep themselves more environmentally conscious, and by age environmental consciousness is growing. Looking at home characteristics we see that people living in smaller flats with less electronic appliances tend to keep themselves less environmental-friendly persons.
The explanation power of Model B1, on analysing the factors influencing energy-providers’ environmental responsibility is 2.5%. Among the individual characteristics gender, and age have a significant effect, while from the home characteristics, the type of the household, and the number of electronic appliances affect significantly this attitude. According to the analysis, males assume higher the environmental consciousness of the energy providers, than females. This attitude increases by age. Home size and the number of electric appliances significantly affects this attitude. People living in smaller flats and having less electronic appliances tend to see energy providers less environmentally-friendly.
The explanation power of Model C1, on analysing the factors influencing personal norms is 0.5%, extremely low. Although gender and the number of electronic appliances seems to be significant factors, the model is too weak.
The explanation power of Model D1, on analysing the factors influencing social norms is 1.6%. Although there are two significant individual factors, the explanation power is too low.
As the next step, we added country variables to the models and present the results of the analysis in Table 14
According to the models containing the country variables the explanation power of Model A2, on analysing the factors influencing environmental self-identity is 17.5%. The same individual characteristics have a significant effect as in the previous model (A1): gender and age have a significant effect: according to our data males tend to keep themselves more environmentally conscious, and by age environmental consciousness is growing. Looking at home characteristics, we see that home size has no significant effect, while the number of electronic appliances and house-type still has: people living in smaller flats with less electronic appliances tend to keep themselves less environmental-friendly persons. The country of the respondent also has a clear significant effect.
Expanding the model (Model B1) on the factors influencing energy-providers’ environmental responsibility by country variables (Model B2) the explanation power increased a little bit: 3.9%. Among the individual characteristics, gender and age have a significant effect, while from the home characteristics, the type of the household, and the number of electronic appliances affect significantly this attitude. According to the analysis, males assume higher the environmental consciousness of the energy providers, than females. This attitude increases by age. Home size and the number of electric appliances significantly affects this attitude. People living in smaller flats and having less electronic appliances tend to see energy providers less environmentally friendly. Respondents’ country also has a significant effect.
The explanation power of Model C1 was low, including country variables increased explanation power to 14.8% in Model C2, analysing the factors influencing personal norms. Among the individual characteristics gender and age have a significant effect: elderly people and males seem to feel that energy saving is moral. the number of electronic appliances also seems to be a significant factor, the more appliances one have the less one agrees with the statements that energy use is a moral issue. Respondents’ country also has a significant effect.
The explanation power of Model D2, on analysing the factors influencing social norms is still fairly low: 2.3%. Several individual and household characteristics, and also the respondents’ country have a significant effect on it, but the low explanation power leaves few places for analysis. The next question in the analysis is what kind of environmental attitudes groups exist in the four countries.
5.3. Attitudes Groups towards Environmental Protection by Countries
shows a quaternary typology. The principal components are variables with a zero expected value, with unit standard deviation, that is, measures close to zero mean that the members of the given group in the variable reach the sample mean. Since the average of the original variables is typically between 4.7 and 5.2 (measured on a seven-point scale, where 7 represents the most complete agreement), the sample mean, 0, indicates a certain degree of agreement, so negative numbers do not necessarily mean a clear rejection only that the particular feeling (attitude) is less characteristic of the group than the sample as a whole. A positive number means that a particular emotion is very characteristic of group members.
About the members in the first column, we know that they do not feel environmentally sensitive and that they consider energy service providers sensitive to environmental issues only to a very low degree. They also do not perceive that environmental issues are important to those around them, but they think they should do it for the sake of morality, we call them conscientious environmentalists, 28.98% of the sample may be classified here.
The group in the second column sees no moral reason for environmental protection, feels less receptive to the wider social environment, and at the same time sees itself as the person responsible for environmental protection, and believes that environmental protection is also important to energy service providers. We named this group Conscious Greens, 19.5% of the sample.
For the members of the group in the third column, all four dimensions of environmental protection are very important. They consider themselves to be environmentalists, believe in the environmental responsibility of energy service providers, see no other opportunity from a moral point of view, and believe that protecting the environment is important to those around them. This is the most populous group, fully greens are 31.7% of respondents.
The group in the fourth column is the opposite of the previous one, they have no explicit interest in environmental issues, either morally or socially. We named this group as not interested in environmental protection, 19.9% of the sample belongs to this group.
One of the central questions in this paper is whether there is a significant difference in the attitudes of respondents to energy use in each country. The following table (Table 16
) shows that there is a significant correlation between the country of the respondent and attitudes towards energy use and environmental protection.
Examination of standard residuals also provides an opportunity to understand which country, the occurrence of which groups is more frequent than expected in the event of independence.
We see that in Switzerland Conscious Greens, who do not see moral reasons for environmental protection, are less likely to be receptive to the broader social environment, but there are more individuals who consider themselves and energy service providers environmentally conscious, while the proportion of Fully Greens is lower than expected in the event of independence. Swiss respondents are characterized by extremes, as there is a particularly high proportion of those who do not have an interest in environmental protection.
When interpreting the data in Italy, it is worth bearing in mind that the research was conducted in Northern Italy. We can see that the proportion of conscious greens and fully greens is high, and the proportion of greens for conscientious reasons is lower than expected in the event of independence.
Netherlands the proportion of greens for conscience reasons is higher expected in the event of independence, which means that this is a personal, moral issue for people living here, not choosing more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient solutions as a response to social pressure, or because they think that environmental protection is an important issue for them. In contrast, the proportion of conscious greens is expressly low in the Netherlands.
The Hungarian data are basically similar to the Dutch data, the proportion of conscious greens is lower, and the proportion of greens for conscious reasons is higher than expected in the case of independence. Examining the distribution of the groups, we find that the Netherlands and Hungary are somewhat similar.
Our results suggest that while many details remain to be clarified and the need for new explanatory variables is obvious, differences in environmental attitudes across countries may be a key dimension of energy efficiency components in Europe, and more complex analysis should be the focus of future research.