Why the Energy Issue May Decide the Election | Brand Tracking Insights
Concerns about rising electricity prices just keep growing. At the same time, polarization on energy issues is increasing. How should we solve the energy crisis, and who is responsible? Understanding how today's electricity consumers reason about the electricity market will be crucial for both businesses and politicians. With our Energy Tracker, we shed new light on the issue and provide insight into why concerns are growing, what Swedes actually think and how the issue could be decisive for the future survival of electricity companies and the upcoming elections.
Since March 2022, Odyssey's Energy Tracker has continuously monitored Swedish consumers' views on the electricity market, society and market players in order to gain deeper insight into the energy issue. Our brand tracking study reveals how the different voter bases reason about energy solutions, with support for nuclear power advancing across the board. At the same time, concerns about high electricity prices are greater than ever.
Typically, our Brand Tracker and the insights it generates are aimed at brands navigating and positioning themselves in an increasingly competitive market. However, the recent turmoil in the electricity market has made us feel that we would like to share some of the insights we have gained from our Energy Tracker.
As everyone knows, we live in an increasingly turbulent world with many different uncertainties driving the electricity market. This, together with volatile electricity prices, intense election campaigns and a generally low understanding of how the electricity market works, has driven major changes in the Swedish people's attitudes and behaviors regarding energy and how energy issues should be solved.
Concerns are rising sharply
We have seen a sharp rise in concerns about electricity prices becoming more expensive. For as many as 6 out of 10 Swedes, concerns about rising energy prices are one of the top four energy issues, with many now worrying more about future electricity prices than electricity prices today or the impact our electricity consumption has on the environment.
These concerns have increased as the year has progressed and are spreading across all voter groups and geographies. Moreover, anxiety has increased dramatically (15% units) from March to August. This means that around 1.5 million more people who this spring were not directly concerned about high electricity bills now are. That is a big change, and not surprisingly, people are most worried in Energy Zone 4, i.e., in southern Sweden, especially among those living in Single homes.
As anxiety increases, the understanding of how the system works decreases, which of course further fuels anxiety. We can also see that anxiety is clearly linked to party sympathies, where the group who vote SD generally have the highest percentage of worried, and the groups who sympathizes with the Liberals and the Center party generally have the lowest percentage of worried.
The anxiety breeds widespread polarization
While it is possible to see that anxiety unites in seriousness, it polarizes more and more around what one wants to be done, who is responsible and how to solve it for the future. These differences of opinion can be linked to differences between energy areas and housing, but also to political views and generations. It has also become one of the most important election issues. In other words, it is not just the winter's electricity bill that is at stake, but also who will govern Sweden over the next four years.
What can we see?
A clear catalyst for polarization is the perspective from which consumers view the energy issue; is the most important perspective me and my family, me? Or is it the impact on the environment and society, us, that is most important? Here consumers are split roughly 50/50.
But it is also the way forward, what kind of solution is best, that polarizes the public. Is it efficiency, subsidies or is it technology that will solve the challenges?
We can see, for example, that those driving the use of solar PV are mainly Single homeowners that can be categorized as "techies", people who like smart-home solutions and want to be at the forefront of technological innovation. In contrast, consumers driven by environmental concerns and sustainability are, somewhat surprisingly, not nearly as far ahead, or active in driving the specific use of solar PV.
Another issue that is very polarized is whether nuclear power is a way forward or not. Although it is a polarized issue, we can see that more and more people are in favour of nuclear power, whether it is for the "good of society" or because they believe it solves their own needs best.
What are the implications of these radical changes among consumers for businesses and politicians?
Firstly, it is more important than ever to deeply understand your customers and how the brand you represent is positioned with consumers, in a way that tracks changes over time and allows you to dig into regional differences and local trends effectively. Companies that are not consumer-driven will find it very difficult in the future. The question of how to navigate a market must always be rooted in both the strategy you want to pursue and the reality in which you operate.
In the same way, politicians need to understand what their voters and supporters think is important in order to best get their message across about how Sweden should get out of this energy crisis, and come out on the other side, stronger than before. The party that does that best may well be the ones that decide who comes out on top September 11.
Odyssey's Energy Tracker has the answer to many of these questions and many more. If you have questions about the energy market, your or other brands or consumer trends in the energy market, we probably have the answers. So don't hesitate, ask away!
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