U.S. voters favor carbon tax by 4-to-1 margin

U.S. voters favor carbon tax by 4-to-1 margin

Cutting social spending not the way to deal with budget problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sixty-seven percent of Americans would rather see the government tax carbon pollution rather than cut spending as a way of solving our budget problems. This is the result of a national survey of 1,000 voters by Mellman Group, a leading polling firm. It was conducted last month, at a time when raising taxes on wealthier Americans was being hotly debated.

“The numbers are in: American voters strongly support new ways of solving our budget problems, while protecting our planet at the same time,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the poll. “The president and members of Congress don’t need to think about another harsh round of cuts to our social safety net, when carbon taxes are a popular and promising budget solution.”

Even a modest tax on carbon dioxide pollution, like that proposed by Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.) in 2009, has the potential to generate substantial revenue: Stark’s tax, for example, could have yielded $80 billion in the first year alone, and $600 billion over 10 years. That is about half the amount that the automatic spending cuts ($1.2 trillion) would save over nine years, less if part of the revenue were refunded to consumers.

Survey respondents were very supportive of a carbon tax even when presented with strongly-worded arguments against it, including the contention that “with the economy in trouble and too many people struggling to find jobs, this is a wrong time to pass a new tax on every business and consumer in America.”   

The poll also indicated that:

  • Compared with taxing carbon pollution, only 15 percent of respondents favored cutting government spending as a way of solving our budget problems.
  • Voters’ strong support for carbon taxes do not differ greatly based on how the revenue would be used: whether to help solve our budget problems (70 percent in favor), or to help solve our budget problems as well as fund climate and clean energy jobs programs (72 percent in favor).
  • Support for a carbon tax was high among Democrats (93 percent in favor) and Republicans (66 percent) alike.

The survey was conducted between December 16-19, 2012, by the Mellman Group, two-time winner of “Pollster of the Year” by American Association of Political Consultants. The survey polled a scientifically selected random sample of 1,000 adults from throughout the United States. All voted in the 2012 presidential election. The survey was balanced between men and women, and between those who described themselves as Democrats versus Republicans, and liberal versus conservative. The margin of error associated with this survey is +/– 3.1 percent.

short summary of the poll results is available.


Michelle Chan, 510-900-3141, [email protected] (California)
Ben Schreiber, 202-222-0752, [email protected] (Washington, D.C.)

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