Both the recent Competitive Enterprise Institute and Associated Press polls on climate change find that a clear majority of Americans have at least some concern about the issue. But both polls also show little willingness to spend on climate change measures.
The AP’s spin on its poll plays up the large and growing concern about climate change. No doubt, if you ask a broadly worded question so that even those with a modest level of concern can say yes, you get a majority. CEI’s poll found the same thing—71 percent are concerned about climate change. Given the two decades of full-court press from the media on the issue, the only real surprise is that the numbers aren’t even higher.
But when it comes to specific policies and the willingness to pay for them, both polls also agree that climate measures are a low spending priority for Americans. CEI finds that 39 percent of respondents don’t want policies that would raise gasoline or electricity prices by even$1 per year. Another 9 percent set their limit at $10 per year. And note that most pollsters will tell you that people are more generous with hypothetical money than the real thing. The AP poll similarly finds that only 52 percent would support a $1 per month fee added to their energy costs.
Beyond dollars and cents, the CEI poll also explored the question of who should dictate these decisions. For example, it found that 73 percent of respondents want to choose for themselves whether or not to switch to an electric vehicle, while only 13 percent wanted the federal government to intervene. The AP did not ask about the freedom of choice aspects of climate policy.
Given these low cost thresholds, it may very well be that measures already in place targeting fossil fuels are exceeding what people are willing to pay. That is clearly the case in California, where climate measures are one of the main reasons why gasoline is over $1 per gallon higher than the in rest of the country and electric bills are 50 to 100 percent higher. And now, we have the pending budget reconciliation bill and a slew of Biden administration climate measures that would add more to climate policy costs and endeavor to take the California climate agenda nationwide.