A national research project sponsored by the Institute for Energy Research and the American Conservative Union Foundation consisting of ten focus groups and a nationwide survey (1018 registered voters, margin of error 3.1%) discovered that:
There is little enthusiasm for taxing energy. When asked about a tax on carbon dioxide, 44% of respondents opposed, while 39% favored. More importantly, when asked whether they trusted the federal government to spend the money from such a tax wisely just 18% said they did, while 74% said they did not.
Even among those who ranked climate change as an important risk (identifying it as a 6 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10), just 42% indicated taxing energy was an appropriate response to climate change.
People of all ideological stripes and all demographic characteristics remain profoundly skeptical of the ability of government to do anything meaningfully and well. Consequently, they’re unwilling to pay for (or really even consider) anything that looks like a government mandate. Government action is considered a last, worst resort, used only when all other ideas have failed.
Carbon dioxide not considered a pollutant. A solid majority – 55% – said that carbon dioxide is needed for plant life and humans both exhale it and consume it every day. Just 31% said it is damaging the environment.
This (and other results) suggests three things:
First, the obsessive nature of the conversation about carbon dioxide escapes most people. In other words, debates around things like the Paris agreement are more noise than signal.
Second, carbon dioxide and climate change have become decoupled in the minds of many voters. This emphasizes one of the significant findings of this project, namely that climate change has become a catch basket into which all environmental problems have been tossed.
Third, this conversation is far from over. Sentiments about climate change remain as poorly formed and unsettled as they were when this conversation began three decades ago. In other words, in spite of the time and billions of dollars spent, those who press this issue don’t seem to be any further along than they were when they started.
“This survey confirms what we have known for a long time. Voters think taxes on energy or its proxy, carbon dioxide, are a bad idea, and they do not trust the government to spend the money from such taxes,” said Thomas Pyle, IER President and ACU Foundation Policy Fellow.
“As the tax reform debate unfolds in Washington, lawmakers are forewarned that the voters have no appetite for energy or carbon taxes,” said ACU leader Matt Schlapp.