New Poll Shows Support for Fuel Economy Standards Drops When Public Learns About Safety Issue

New Poll Shows Support for Fuel Economy Standards Drops When Public Learns About Safety Issue

February 24, 2002

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Washington, DC, February 25, 2002—As the U.S. Senate begins debate this week on whether to raise federal fuel economy standards, the Competitive Enterprise Institute today released a poll which shows that support for the program drops dramatically when Americans find out about its impact on traffic safety.

The federal program, known as CAFE (corporate average fuel economy), has been controversial since first introduced in the 1970s.  The program has forced the downsizing of vehicles for the sake of fuel efficiency.  This, however, has made them less crashworthy as well, resulting in thousands of additional deaths in traffic accidents.

 

Below are highlights of the poll.  The entire poll is available online here, as well as a state-by-state breakdown of the fatality rates attributed to CAFE.

 

When people are initially asked about the CAFE program, they generally support it:

 

·         Based on what you know about federal fuel economy standards, do you support or oppose them?

 

61% TOTAL SUPPORT

22% TOTAL OPPOSE

 

But when they are informed about CAFE’s effect on safety, support drops:

 

·         A National Academy of Sciences report shows federal fuel economy standards contribute to the deaths of 1,300 to 2,600 people in traffic accidents in the U.S. each year.  Knowing this, would you be more likely to support or oppose the current federal fuel standards?

 

42% TOTAL SUPPORT

39% TOTAL OPPOSE

 

And a plurality of the public ends up opposed to making CAFE more stringent:

 

·         Would you support or oppose changing the current law to make the standards stricter?

 

43% TOTAL SUPPORT

48% TOTAL OPPOSE

 

The rise of the SUV is often presented as a reason to raise CAFE.  Ironically, however, the two major reasons for the SUV’s popularity (out of five factors polled) involve features that CAFE has restricted in the passenger car fleet:

 

·         Which of the following was the most important reason in your decision to buy a sport utility vehicle?

 

28% MORE SPACE FOR PASSENGERS AND CARGO

22% GREATER SAFETY/RELIABILITY/REPUTATION

 

The survey, conducted by the polling company for CEI, included 1,001 adults, with a standard margin of error of three percent.  Copies of the poll results are available online here.