Hummer drivers claim the moral high ground

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The best way to preserve American values is to keep on polluting the country with a vengeance: that's apparently the view of Hummer drivers, anyway.


According to an admittedly tiny survey of Hummer owners, it's they that have the moral high ground, by defending America's frontier lifestyle against anti-American critics.


Researchers from Austria, the US and Canada researched attitudes toward owning and driving Hummers, which have become symbols to many of American greed and wastefulness.


Hummers aren't universally popular


They conducted in-depth interviews with twenty US-born and raised Hummer owners and found among these consumers a strong current of moralism.


"As we studied American Hummer owners and their ideological beliefs, we found that they consider Hummer driving a highly moral consumption choice," write the authors. "For Hummer owners it is possible to claim the moral high ground."


The authors explain that Hummer owners employ the ideology of American foundational myths, such as the "rugged individual," and the "boundless frontier" to construct themselves as moral protagonists. They often believe they represent a bastion again anti-American discourses evoked by their critics.


"Our analysis of the underlying American identity discourses revealed that being under siege by [moral] critics is an historically established feature of being an American," write the authors. "The moralistic critique of their consumption choices readily inspired Hummer owners to adopt the role of the moral protagonist who defends American national ideals."


The research formed part of an investigation into the anti-consumption sentiments expressed by people who believe they are making a moral choice by shunning consumerism, for example by opposing chains like Starbucks.


The results appear in the Journal of Consumer Research.