Public Opinion on Climate Change and Policy

Rank of Climate Change as Very Important                                   Support for a Carbon Fee

Source: EPIC/AP-NORC Public Opinion Poll: Where do Americans Stand on Climate and Energy Policy?, The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, October 2021

On the eve of this year’s international climate talks, COP26, EPIC and The Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released the results of a public opinion poll surveying Americans’ attitudes about climate and energy policy. The poll found that most Americans believe the pace of climate change is increasing, and 59 percent say climate change is a very or extremely important issue to themup 10 percentage-points from 2018.

Most Americans support policies to confront climate change and are willing to pay more in their energy bills to combat it. When asked about their support for a nationwide fee on carbon emissions, the data indicate that Americans on average are willing to pay $40 a month for the fee, up from $27 a month when asked a similar question in 2018. For context, this is roughly equal to a carbon price of $30 per ton—double the $15 per ton carbon price that was floated in the Senate this year and more than the projected cost of the Waxman-Markey Bill that would have cost the average household about $15 per month.

Looking at the range of responses, about half of Americans are willing to pay something to combat climate change. Given options that ranged from as low as $1 to as high as $100, support for a carbon fee was strongest for lower dollar amounts and declined as the proposed impact on energy bills increased. Still, 31% of Americans would support the fee even if it meant paying $100 more for their energy every month. That is more than double the share who said so in the 2018 survey. When told how these carbon fees would be used, Americans’ willingness to pay varied modestly.

The poll also asked respondents to consider a broad suite of clean energy policies, many debated by Congress and the Administration this year. More than half of Americans support, and only 16 percent oppose, a clean electricity standard. Democrats overwhelmingly support the measure, while more Republicans support than oppose it. Around half of Americans would support a variety of policies polled to transition to electric vehicles. They are more likely to support tax incentives or cash rebates to buy more electric vehicles over government rules. Notably, however, more Americans support than oppose requiring all new vehicles to be electric.

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