20 Mar 2008 Americans Cool to Global Warming Action, New Poll Finds
Nearly Half Wouldn’t Be Willing to Pay Even a Penny More for Gasoline; Opposition to Taxes Especially Strong Among Minorities
Washington, D.C.: Forty-eight percent of Americans are unwilling to spend even a penny more in gasoline taxes to help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new nationwide survey released today by the National Center for Public Policy Research.
The poll found just 18% of Americans are willing to pay 50 cents or more in additional taxes per gallon of gas to reduce greenhouse emissions. U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, has called for a 50 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 33% of the U.S.’s man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Over 60% of these emissions – or about 20% of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions – result from burning gasoline in personal automobiles.
“With one-fifth of all U.S. CO2 emissions coming from light trucks and cars, any serious effort to significantly reduce U.S. emissions would have to encourage fuel conservation in personal automobiles,” said David A. Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “But almost half of all Americans oppose spending more for gasoline, despite polls indicating wide public concern over global warming. These results suggest Americans’ concern may not be as deep as we’ve been led to believe.”
Opposition to increased gasoline taxes was especially strong among minorities, with 53% of African-Americans indicating they are unwilling to pay higher gas taxes in any amount. Eighty-four percent of blacks and 78% of Hispanics opposed paying an additional 50 cents or more for their gasoline.
“It’s not surprising that minorities oppose higher gas taxes in large numbers, as such taxes are sharply regressive, harming the economically-disadvantaged disproportionately,” said Ridenour. “An extra $300 per year in taxes means little to someone making $100,000 annually. When you’re just getting by, it can mean not having enough for food, rent or utility bills.”
Voters were told: “Congress is currently considering legislation that would raise the tax on gasoline in an attempt to motivate Americans to conserve fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” They were asked to indicate how much more they’d be willing to pay on top of what they already pay in gasoline taxes. They were given seven choices: nothing, less than 50 cents, 50 cents, one dollar, two dollars, five dollars, eight dollars or more.
Eighteen percent indicated they are willing to pay an additional 50 cents per gallon of gas or more; eight percent indicated they’re willing to spend a dollar or more and just 2% said they’re willing to spend $2 or more.
“Congressman Dingell’s proposal to raise gas taxes by 50 cents per gallon appears to be dead-on-arrival as far as the public is concerned. Even if it wasn’t, Dingell’s proposal is too modest to encourage any meaningful fuel conservation,” said Ridenour. “Europeans routinely pay between $4 and $5 per gallon of gas in taxes and their fuel appetite continues to grow nevertheless. Just 1% of Americans are willing to spend an additional $5 dollars or more. Republicans are willing to do so by a 3 to 1 margin over Democrats.”
Opposition to any gas tax hike was strongest in the Great Lakes, home of the automakers and Congressman John Dingell, at 56%, followed by New England (51%) and the Farm Belt (50%).
Opposition grew once respondents were informed that eliminating passenger cars in the United States altogether would only reduce world emissions by a fraction.
Among those who indicated they are willing to pay more for gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 58% indicated that they are less willing to do so, and 42% much less willing, when informed their sacrifice would produce little positive results.
“Many global warming polls ask the wrong questions,” said Ridenour. “We shouldn’t ask Americans if action is needed on global warming, but how much more they’re willing to pay for that action. We need to also ask whether people would still be willing to pay more, given the almost certain futility of it.”
The poll was conducted February 24-26 by Wilson Research Strategies, which surveyed 800 registered voters who are likely to vote in the 2008 presidential election. The poll has a margin of error of 3.46% at a 95% confidence interval.
Full poll results may be found at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NCPPR_Global_Warming_Poll_Questions_0208.pdf.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation established in 1982 that supports commonsense, market-based solutions to environmental problems.