Poll: Many Americans Will Pay for Climate-Friendly Policy

Palo Alto, CA (June 20, 2007)- Most Americans favor government-imposed standards on energy and fuel companies to other policies designed to reduce greenhouse gases, according to a new poll released June 20 by Stanford University, New Scientist magazine, and Resources for the Future, a Washington, DC based think tank. In the national survey of 1491 adults, 73 percent of respondents said they support government-mandated low-carbon standards on electrical power generators in exchange for supporting a $10 increase in a typical monthly bill.

Given the same price increase, 50 percent of people surveyed favor a tax on emissions and only 47 percent favor “cap-and-trade” programs. “This survey adds to an accumulating body of evidence that the public really supports policies that address global warming,” said Matthew DeBell, a researcher at Stanford’s Institute for Research in the Social Sciences. “Before, there was no documentation that people were willing to put their money where their mouths are. This shows that people are willing to support these policies even when costs are incurred.”
“This survey helps policymakers anticipate which policies could be sold to the public and which wouldn’t,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford professor of communication and political science who helped design the poll. “Our findings suggest that Americans are open to policies they think will work and are affordable. Policymakers who want to avoid public resistance to their proposals will find useful guidance in our numbers.”
Krosnick said it is not surprising that the public prefers emissions standards to carbon tax and cap-and-trade programs. “The question is, with a cap-and-trade system, what can you guarantee to people?” Krosnick said. “In fact, nothing, except that the government is going to issue permits and they’re going to be traded. Also, the idea of issuing permits to pollute is really distasteful to some people.
So, cap-and-trade may be sensible if it works right but you can’t guarantee it. Whereas, if the government tells electricity manufacturers that they must make at least 30 percent of their power by methods other than carbon dioxide-emitting methods, that’s really easy to understand and it’s guaranteed.”
Details of the findings are published in the current issue of New Scientist magazine.
Related Resources:
New Scientist Magazine
New Scientist Findings (PDF)
Stanford University
Jon Krosnick
Woods Institute for the Environment
Resources for the Future