April 24 2013 07:41 AM

Harris Poll finds consumers are skeptical and less willing to pay for "green" goods.

It turns out that most U.S. consumers are smarter about food-buying choices than many people in agriculture may have thought.

The headline of a Harris Poll released April 15 confirmed a belief that many conventional farmers have held since organic eating splashed onto the Hollywood celebrity scene as a fashionable eating trend approximately a decade ago and then began to spread into regular households: "Majority of Americans see organic label as an excuse to charge more".

One question in the survey, which focused on environmental attitudes, "green" practices and buying choices in general, asked participants how much they agreed with this statement: "I think labeling food or other products as "organic" is just an excuse to charge more."

Fifty-nine percent agreed either strongly or somewhat. Six percent were not sure. This majority was bigger among men (63 percent) than women (54 percent), and among Republicans and Independents (65 and 58 percent, respectively) than among Democrats (54 percent).

Regionally, the organic = charge more impression was highest among survey participants in the Midwest and South (61 percent) and lowest among those in the West and East (54 and 57 percent, respectively).

In eight other questions, participants who said they have strong pro-green and pro-environmental attitudes were in the clear minority (18 to 38 percent), although those rates were the highest in the last three years.

Preferring and wanting environmentally friendly products isn't necessarily being backed up by their wallets, however. According to the poll, the percentage of survey participants who said they were not willing to pay extra for green products was 51 percent - the highest it has been since the question was first asked in 2009.

"What surprised us most was that while Americans are showing more concern for the environment, they aren't necessarily willing to pay more to do anything about it," said Mike de Vere, president of the Harris Poll.