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Do Political Attitudes Affect Consumer Choice? Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Study with Genetically Modified Bread in Switzerland

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  • Philipp Aerni

    () (World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Hallerstrasse 6, Bern CH-3012, Switzerland)

Abstract

Independent of the left-right model of ideological structure, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and agriculture are resented across the political spectrum in Switzerland. In the absence of any real experience with genetically modified (GM) food but faced with continuous exposure to warning messages in the media, conditioned feelings related to such a politically sensitive product may have a significant influence on revealed consumer choice. In our large-scale field study, we examined this assumption by selling three types of bread labeled as ‘made with organic corn’, ‘made with genetically modified corn’ and ‘made with conventional corn’ respectively in five locations across Switzerland using different price scenarios and selling groups. Customers who decided to buy bread also received an envelope containing a questionnaire about their prior political attitude expressed through their voting decision in a national referendum on a five-year ban on GMOs in 2005. The results demonstrate that consumer purchase decisions are determined by contextual factors not captured by general political attitudes. Surprisingly, the mere presence of GM food did have a positive impact on overall sales. The assumption that consumers would feel turned off by the mere presence of GM food for political reasons can therefore be safely discarded.

Suggested Citation

  • Philipp Aerni, 2011. "Do Political Attitudes Affect Consumer Choice? Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Study with Genetically Modified Bread in Switzerland," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(9), pages 1-18, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:9:p:1555-1572:d:14083
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Aerni, Philipp & Scholderer, Joachim & Ermen, David, 2011. "How would Swiss consumers decide if they had freedom of choice? Evidence from a field study with organic, conventional and GM corn bread," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(6), pages 830-838.
    2. Kahneman, Daniel & Ritov, Ilana & Schkade, David A, 1999. "Economic Preferences or Attitude Expressions?: An Analysis of Dollar Responses to Public Issues," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 203-235, December.
    3. Sara Scatasta & Justus Wesseler & Jill Hobbs, 2007. "Differentiating the consumer benefits from labeling of GM food products," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 37(2-3), pages 237-242, September.
    4. Mizerski, Richard W & Golden, Linda L & Kernan, Jerome B, 1979. " The Attribution Process in Consumer Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 123-140, Se.
    5. Aerni, Philipp, 2009. "What is sustainable agriculture? Empirical evidence of diverging views in Switzerland and New Zealand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1872-1882, April.
    6. Klaus G. Grunert & Tino Bech-Larsen & Liisa Lähteenmäki & Øydis Ueland & Annika Åström, 2004. "Attitudes towards the use of GMOs in food production and their impact on buying intention: The role of positive sensory experience," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(1), pages 95-107.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    field study; GM food; revealed consumer behavior; political preference; freedom of choice; mental construal; conditioned feelings;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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