Politics and power: Americans who vote more use 7-10% less electricity

This is a guest cross-post by Barry Fischer, the Head Writer/Editor of Arlington-based Opower’s big-data and energy blog, “Outlier,” which leverages energy usage data across 50 million US households. You can follow Barry on Twitter @OpowerOutlier.
Three out of four voters in this year’s election view energy as a “very important” issue in their evaluation of candidates.  As voters examine the candidates’ positions on energy, we decided to turn the tables — and instead shine the light on the energy profile of the voters themselves…We wondered if any statistical relationship might exist between voting patterns and energy usage. So we cracked open Opower’s energy data warehouse (spanning 50 million US households), and linked it up with historical election data from the last seven years.

Our analysis uncovered a striking pattern that held resolutely across geographic regions: Americans who vote more also use less electricity.

Let’s dig into the data streams to assess what the voting-energy relationship looks like, and what may be driving it.

Higher voting frequency is associated with lower household electricity usage

Our analysis zeroed in on 137,000 households, whose electricity consumption data we were able to match with publicly available records indicating how many elections the utility account holder has voted in since 2004.

We sourced voting records and energy usage data from two states that exhibit distinct electoral identities – a western state and an eastern state. Then we matched up the voting/energy data streams in a way that fully protects the personally identifiable information of the households.

Between 2004 and 2010, voters in each state had the opportunity to participate in an average of about 10 elections (spanning primary, general, local, and special elections). As you can see below, people who voted in a greater number of those elections also consistently use less electricity.

Note that the data above represents only utility customers who lived in their respective households over the full 2004-10 period, so all of them faced a similar number of opportunities to cast votes. (And if you’re wondering why the eastern state exhibits higher average electricity usage in general — it’s simply because a larger fraction of households there use electricity as a heating source.)

The inverse relationship between voting frequency and home electricity usage becomes even more apparent when we categorize people as “rare voters,” “sometimes voters,” or “frequent voters.”

So what’s the explanation for frequent voters’ persistently lower household electricity usage?

For the rest of the analysis, click here to read the original piece on the Opower Outlier data blog.