TO: FROM: Interested Parties U.S. Climate Task Force Hart Research Associates Future 500 December 1, 2009 National Poll Findings On Energy And Climate Change Policy


On behalf of the U.S. Climate Task Force and Future 500, Hart Research Associates conducted a national survey among registered voters on issues related to U.S. energy and climate change policy. The survey was conducted by telephone from August 24 to 31, 2009 among 1,002 registered voters. The margin of error for the overall findings is ±3.2 percentage points and is higher for specific subgroups.

Key Findings


Overwhelmingly, voters believe that U.S. energy policy needs significant reform, and broad support exists for an energy proposal aimed at meaningfully reducing carbon emissions and increasing the use of renewable and alternative energy sources. Fully two in three (66%) U.S. voters feel that the country’s energy policy must be modified significantly, including 19% who say a “complete overhaul” is needed, and 47% who feel that “major reform” is needed. Support for significant reform is shared broadly and includes a majority of voters in every major demographic audience as well as across partisan and geographic lines. Strong and broad support exists for policies that focus on reducing carbon emissions associated with climate change and increasing the use of renewable energy sources; in fact, 74% of voters overall say that they would favor a measure with these specific objectives, including fully 49% who say they strongly favor this type of proposal. Importantly, there is robust consensus on this point with a majority of all key audiences supporting energy policies that pursue these goals, including strong majorities of Republicans (59%) and voters who describe themselves as not having strong feelings about environmental goals or environmentalism (61%).

Within the Beltway, many are familiar with the debate over specific energy policy approaches to deal with climate change. However, this dialogue has not reached voters who are neither familiar nor fluent with the details, or even the basic terms associated with particular legislative approaches; the dynamics of this legislative discussion have yet to be defined and played out among the American electorate.


Fewer than one in 10 (9%) voters says that they have heard a lot about a proposal to reduce carbon emissions commonly referred to as “cap and trade,” while more than one in three (35%) freely admits that they have never heard the term before; an additional one in four (26%) says they have heard of a “cap and trade” proposal but know very little about it. Similarly, awareness of a “carbon tax” approach to energy policy is extremely thin, with just 8% of voters saying they have heard a lot about it and 57% saying they either have never heard the term (31%) or know very little about it (26%). When voters are presented with balanced descriptions of both a cap and trade approach and a carbon tax approach to energy and climate change policy, they clearly and consistently prefer a carbon tax approach. Notably, this preference is broadly shared among a diverse array of audiences and holds up across partisan and geographic divides.


After being given a fair and accurate explanation of the key elements of each proposal, voters express considerably greater support for a carbon tax approach; in fact, by 20 percentage points (57% favor, 37% oppose) voters say they would support a carbon tax plan. By comparison, initial reaction to a cap and trade plan is much less favorable and garners an evenly divided reaction, with 46% of voters saying they would support such a plan and 46% saying they would oppose it. When voters are asked to choose between the two approaches, they prefer a carbon tax approach over a cap and trade approach by a decisive 58% to 27% (+31). Importantly, this preference for a carbon tax approach holds up across the electorate, including among Democrats, independents, and Republicans, voters in every income bracket, voters in each region of the country, voters who consider themselves strong environmentalists as well as those who do not, voters who are most closely following this debate, and those who are not yet familiar with it.

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Voters’ Preference For Carbon Tax Approach Over Cap And Trade Approach
Favor Carbon Tax Approach % 66 58 46 67 50 55 62 53 57 Favor Cap And Trade Approach % 30 23 26 30 29 30 21 33 29 Differential (Support For Carbon Tax Approach) ± +36 +35 +20 +37 +21 +25 +41 +20 +28

Democrats Independents Republicans Obama voters McCain voters Northeast South Midwest West HH Income: Less than $40K HH Income: $40K to $75K HH Income: More than $75K Strong environmentalists Moderate environmentalists Non-environmentalists Most aware of policy debate Moderately aware of policy debate Least aware of policy debate

63 58 55

24 29 27

+39 +29 +28

68 62 45

23 28 30

+45 +34 +15

43 57 61

11 24 32

+32 +33 +28

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Voters’ preference for a carbon tax approach to energy and climate change policy is grounded in a range of specific perceived benefits, including the notion that a carbon tax would have a greater positive impact on the environment, be better for the U.S. economy and for U.S. taxpayers, and also do more to achieve other important priorities, such as incentivizing energy-efficient behavior and minimizing new government bureaucracy.


After being presented with balanced arguments in favor of each approach to reduce carbon emissions associated with climate change and enhancing environmental protections, voters favor a carbon tax approach by 18 points (52% to 34%). Voters who see a carbon tax approach as being better for the environment also are more likely to describe their feelings as strong than voters who think a cap and trade approach would be better on this measure. In open-ended comments, voters cite the comparative simplicity and lack of loopholes in administering a carbon tax policy as key advantages to making it effective on this front. Voters also prefer a carbon tax approach in terms of overall impact on the U.S. economy. Again, after being presented with balanced arguments outlining the advantages of each approach in terms of its economic impact, voters prefer a carbon tax by 22 points (53% to 31%). Other advantages that voters identify as important in their support for a carbon tax approach include the notion that it provides a revenue stream for tax refunds to offset the overall impact of the tax; that it serves as a more direct and more immediate incentive for businesses and individual consumers to modify their behavior and become more energy efficient; that it is simpler, more transparent, and less able to be corrupted by special interest exemptions; and that it establishes a preset and predictable tax that is more stable than the pricing that could result in a commodities market established under a cap and trade system.

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