Presidents and politics aren’t the only things to fall along party lines. According to a new study, support for planet-friendlier fashion, too, faces a red-versus-blue divide.
In a poll of 1,000 American adult consumers by coupon app Shopper.com, 71 percent of self-identified Democrats said they wanted to buy more sustainable clothing, compared with 43 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Independent voters.
While awareness about microfibers—minuscule pieces of plastic, less than 0.2 inches in length, that slough off synthetic clothing during laundry—was spread evenly across age groups, Democrats (47 percent) were more concerned than Republicans (33 percent) over the issue. Gender played a role as well. Democratic women, Shopper.com said in its “America’s Fashion Conscience” report, were most likely to feel “very concerned” about microfibers (48 percent), while Republication men (17 percent) fretted about them the least.
At the same time, party allegiance made little difference to whether respondents dumped old clothes in the trash or recycled them.
Despite showing more enthusiasm for sustainability issues, Democrats were just as likely as Republicans to trash apparel instead of donate or recycle it, Shopper.com noted. Across the board, 57 percent of Americans said they tossed their castoff clothing, and nearly half said they’ve never put old clothes in a recycling or charity bin.
As previous studies have shown, Gen Z (70 percent) and millennials (65 percent) are more likely than their Gen-X (61 percent) and baby-boomer (53 percent) forebears to desire to buy more sustainable clothing.
As for the specific sustainability issue they’d want to support, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of those polled said they’d shell out to ensure the clothes they buy are made by people who are paid a living wage or guaranteed safe working conditions. More than one-third (37 percent) said they’d pay more for a company that minimized its greenhouse-gas emissions, and another third (also 37 percent) for garments made with plastic-free and biodegradable fibers.
But while most people said they were in favor of sustainable apparel, far fewer lived up to that ideal.
Of the people surveyed, only 13 percent refused to buy an item because it wasn’t fair-trade certified, 15 percent because it wasn’t biodegradable and 19 percent because it wasn’t 100 percent recycled.
“Why the gap between instincts and actual purchasing decisions?” Shopper.com asked in the report. “Millennials have previously been found to fall short of their eco-ideals in apparel stores, and our analysis reveals the most common reason is price.”
True enough, 62 percent of Americans—and 74 percent of millennials—said the cost of sustainable clothing prevents them from buying more of it.
Other reasons included poor availability of sustainably sourced clothing (55 percent), brands’ lack of transparency about how their clothes are made (42 percent) and lack of knowledge to make informed decisions (17 percent).
Shopper.com asked respondents about different sustainable fabrics, and “in every case,” at least 8 in 10 people who were prepared to buy more sustainable clothes said they’ve chosen to purchase unsustainable apparel.
Still, there’s been a sea change in attitude toward sustainable clothing. While it may not have immediately translated into action, there are signs this may not always be the case.
As an example, Shopper.com pointed to the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,130 garment workers in Bangladesh and injured thousands more. The resulting “public outcry and shaming,” it said, spurred brands to improve their supply-chain practices.
“Each ethical and environmental issue we hold dear can be enforced in the same way,” Shopper.com said. “Our research shows that generations of the future are more willing than ever to try.”