Government Policy

Given the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that global warming is a problem that should be addressed, it is useful to understand what specific policies the public supports when it comes to this matter.

Survey results show that there has been a general desire to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2009, a huge majority of Americans have thought that the United States should limit these emissions generated by businesses (83% in 2009, 78% in 2018), as shown in the figure below.


Question wording can be found here.

PUBLIC OPINION ON SPECIFIC POLICY PROPOSALS

The majority of people have, over the years, supported using tax breaks or government requirements to lower greenhouse gas emissions by power plants, building more efficient cars, and making more energy-efficient buildings and appliances.

As shown in the figure below, from 2006 to 2018, approximately 75% of Americans each year believed that the U.S. government should either require or give tax breaks for lower greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. In 2006 and 2007, over 85% of people held this belief, and that percentage was 82% in 2018.


Question wording can be found here.

Similarly, large majorities believed tax breaks should encourage the manufacturing of more fuel efficient cars. In 2006, 84% held this belief, and in 2018, this number was near its all-time low, at 69% (see the figure below).


Question wording can be found here.

When asked about their opinions on tax breaks for constructing more energy-efficient buildings, the public also responded positively, as shown in the figure below. In 2006, 83% of Americans believed that tax breaks for energy efficient buildings should be given. The size of the majority fell throughout the years, at 75% in 2018.


Question wording can be found here.

A similarly sizable majority of around 70-75% have believed that the U.S. government should require or give tax breaks to companies to develop more energy efficient appliances (see the figure below). A very large majority of 82% reported this belief in 2006, although the number fell over the years (71% in 2018).


Question wording can be found here.

Fewer, but still a majority, said they believed that the government should give tax breaks to reduce air pollution from burning coal.  In 2018,  66% of Americans reported this belief, as shown in the figure below.


Question wording can be found here.

Additionally, 60% of Americans believed the government should impose mandates or provide tax breaks to build all-electric vehicles in 2018 (see the figure below). Over the years, the size of the majority who held this view has been smaller than with regard to some of the other proposals mentioned above.

Slide05


Question wording can be found here.

A large majority of Americans (82%) in 2018 favored tax breaks to produce energy from renewable sources, as shown in the figure below.


Question wording can be found here.

Americans were disinclined to support tax strategies for some other kinds of emission-reduction efforts. A minority (43% in 2018) supported tax breaks to build nuclear power plants (see the figure below).


Question wording can be found here.

Increasing consumer taxes was one of the less popular ideas.  In 2018, only 35% favored the government raising gasoline taxes in order to cause people to use less, as shown below.


Question wording can be found here.

A similarly small percentage of people (27% in 2018) approved of an increase in electricity taxes to cause people to use less.


Question wording can be found here.

CAP AND TRADE 

A cap-and-trade system that limits the amount of greenhouse gases that companies can emit and allows them to buy permits for the emissions they need received majority support of just over half.

In 2015, 52% of Americans favored cap-and-trade when asked the question in this way:

“There’s a proposed system called ‘cap-and-trade.’ The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. Companies that need more permits can buy them, or these companies can pay money to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that other people or organizations put out. Economists say that this system is likely to cause companies to figure out the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Would you favor or oppose a cap-and-trade system to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that companies put out?”

 

REVENUE-NEUTRAL CARBON TAX

In 2015, 61% of Americans approved of the idea that companies should be taxed for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit, and public approval increased to 67% in 2018  (see figure below).


Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.

Another strategy would tax emissions from imported fuels. The majority of Americans (67%) in 2015 thought that the federal government should tax companies for every ton of greenhouse gases the companies emit from imported coal, natural gas, and oil. That percentage rose to 78% in 2018 (see figure below).


Data collected in January 2015. Question wording can be found here.