American Public Skeptical of a Carbon Tax

Monday, December 10, 2012

The purpose of this memo is to provide some key findings on current opinions toward a proposed carbon tax and clean coal technology from our two most recent national polls, conducted October 18-24 and November 9-11 by YouGov and
Americans are leery of the costs associated with a carbon tax

  • Support for a carbon tax is very weak.  In our November poll, 1,000 adults were asked whether they supported or opposed a proposal to reduce the deficit in half by using a carbon tax, which was described as "placing a price on the cost of using fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases which some have linked to climate change." Only 32% of Americans supported such an idea, while 41% opposed it.  There is only 9% strong support for this idea, with 29% strong opposition.  More than a quarter (27%) said they were "unsure," highlighting the lack of engagement on this issue to date. 
  • Predictably, Democrats support the proposal by a 53% to 15% margin, while Republicans broadly reject the idea with 73% opposition and 9% support.  Independents voiced 30% support and 49% opposition.
  • However, when potential cost impacts in the form of higher gas prices at 30 cents per gallon or 20% higher electricity prices are added to the proposal, much higher opposition is seen with 66% of Americans saying they oppose this idea (51% strongly opposing it) with only 18% support.   Democrat support measures only 27% for this idea, while overwhelming majorities of Independents (71%) and Republicans (85%) oppose it.
  • In our November survey, only 21% of adults said they had heard “quite a bit” about the idea of a carbon tax.  Another 27% had heard something about it, but didn’t know much about it.  Over half (51%) had either not heard of it (44%) or were not sure (7%). 
  • Over half of all women (58%) say they have not heard about a carbon tax, while only 29% of men say they have not heard about it. 
  •  Democrats, who are more likely to support this idea, have the lowest level of awareness with only 15% saying they have heard quite a bit and another 26% hearing something, but don’t know much about it, and 51% haven’t heard anything.  By comparison, 29% of Republicans  and 25% of Independents say they have heard quite a bit about it.

Americans overwhelmingly want policies that embrace clean coal technology

  • In our October poll, Americans were asked to look ahead beyond the election and identify some energy policies they could support.  One of the top policies they supported was the promotion of the use of clean coal electricity.  More than three-quarters of all adults (77%) said that US policies in the next four years should include clean coal electricity.  That supporting view was shared by 64% of all Democrats, 80% of Independents and 88% of Republicans.
  • In that same poll, a similarly strong 76% called for the expansion of industry and government research programs to further develop clean coal technologies.  Again, that point of view enjoys bi-partisan support with 70% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans supporting this expansion of research for clean coal.