To get at the heart of the public’s views on a number of energy and climate change issues up for debate, EPIC partners with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct annual public opinion polls.
The latest /AP-NORC poll explored Americans’ attitudes on climate change, their views on key climate and energy policies, and how they feel about electric vehicles and the policies to encourage them. Among the highlights, the poll finds 2 in 5 Americans would consider purchasing an electric vehicle as their next car. But the upfront cost of purchasing the vehicle outweighs the fuel and maintenance savings of owning one. People are also more motivated by saving money on gas than reducing their personal impact on climate change and are less willing to pay a fee in their electric bills to combat climate change than they have been in recent years.
What else have the EPIC/AP-NORC polls gleaned about public opinion on climate change and energy?
Americans’ Attitudes on Climate Change
- Three quarters of Americans believe climate change is happening, but fewer are convinced its human driven—declining 11 percentage points in 5 years, with the decline coming from Democrats and independents.
- Those who have experienced extreme weather are more likely to believe climate change is happening. One in 5 say they would consider moving to avoid extreme weather, with most coming from the West and Southwest.
- Most Americans are taking actions that will save them money on their energy bills such as turning off lights, reducing heat and A/C use and buying an energy efficient appliance. But fewer are making more significant behavioral changes like using renewable energy or driving an electric car.
Americans’ Views on Climate and Energy Policy
- Democrats rank climate change policy as the third most important issue, behind the economy and healthcare and followed by energy policy. Republicans rank climate change as the least important policy issue to them—though, three in ten still cite it as very or extremely important.
- Americans are less willing to pay a carbon fee. Those willing to pay a $1 fee decreased by 14 percentage points in two years. A consistent minority is willing to pay a significant amount (even $100 or more).
- Fifty-six percent support the build out of power lines to transport renewable energy. Democrats and high-income households are more likely to support them, but their support drops by at least 10 percentage points when told the lines would be built in their neighborhood.
“It’s striking that Americans’ willingness to pay even a $1 monthly fee to combat climate change fell to below half of respondents—the lowest level since we began tracking this data. On the other hand, a consistent, sizeable minority remains willing to pay quite a bit, even $100 or more per month. Our estimates suggest that those respondents help keep the overall average at around $30 per ton of CO2. Still, no matter how you look at it, American’s willingness to pay for climate policy is far below what research projects climate change will cost society per ton of CO2 emissions.” – Michael Greenstone, director of EPIC and the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago.
Americans’ Views on Electric Vehicles
- To help with the cost of purchasing and owning an electric vehicle, about half of adults support the government providing tax credits, cash rebates, or other financial incentives, like those that will soon be available via the Inflation Reduction Act.
- About half support the government expanding the EV charging network, as happened under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Nearly 80% cite the lack of charging options as a barrier to purchasing an EV—equally a concern for residents of cities, suburbs or rural areas.
- Around a third support setting stricter fuel efficiency standards to encourage auto companies to sell more EVs.
“While there is plenty of interest in purchasing an electric vehicle, the high upfront cost of owning one and concerns about the country’s charging infrastructure are barriers to more people driving them. Policies that alleviate these concerns will be a key component of building support for an EV future.” – Jennifer Benz, deputy director of The AP-NORC Center.