UPDATE: The Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are expected to propose a rule in the coming days to weaken fuel economy standards for cars and trucks and to fight the right of California and other states who want to set stricter standards.
Over the last 10 years, the University of Michigan’s CLOSUP and Muhlenberg College’s Polling Institute have conducted National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE), biannual national opinion surveys on energy and climate policy. This report presents time-series data showing how attitudes about policies that could reduce emissions from the transportation sector have shifted—or not—over the last decade. Read the full report here
• For the last decade, there has been majority support for increasing fuel economy standards for vehicles. In the latest Spring 2018 survey, 64% of Americans say they support the current fuel economy standards set by President Obama’s administration in 2012.
• 54% of Americans say they oppose the Trump administration’s plans to roll back the standard, though Republicans in support of Trump’s proposal (45%) slightly outnumber those in opposition (41%) to rolling back the standard.
• Most (61%) Americans support the 50-year-old policy that allows California to set stricter standards for vehicles, and think California should be able to keep its existing standards even if the federal government lowers the national standard. Among Republicans, there is more support (49%) than opposition (38%) for this policy.
• Broad support for vehicle fuel economy standards is likely related to consumer benefits; Americans are more supportive of the policy when described as “fuel efficiency” rather than as a tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
• Apart from fuel economy standards, there is high support (71%) for offering rebates for purchasers of electric vehicles.
• Americans are much less supportive of increasing taxes on gasoline as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with only 29% in support and 63% in opposition. This is despite the fact that every state plus the federal government have levied such a tax for much of the last century. The NSEE finds evidence that the unpopularity of the gas tax may be due to how tax revenues are being used.
In addition, University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) has just released a new report that provides a detailed account of California vehicle emissions waiver requests for both light- and heavy-duty vehicles. The report documents how frequently the federal government has approved California’s requests to exceed federal standards, though the Trump Administration has signaled that it may not grant future waiver requests from California. Read that report here.
NSEE’s principle researchers can offer expert analyses on the policies and politics related to the issues raised in this report:
Barry Rabe, professor of public policy and director of University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), is a national thought leader in environmental politics and policy and author of five books, including Can We Price Carbon? (2018). He has received three American Political Science Association awards for his research in this area and was the first social scientist to receive a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Climate Protection Award for his use of scholarship to advance policymaking.
Chris Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO), is a nationally recognized public opinion researcher who has conducted more than 300 large-scale public opinion surveys over the past two decades. He founded MCIPO, which measures the public’s views on electoral and public policy issues with a concentration on environmental and health matters. MCIPO earned an A in FiveThirtyEight’s 2018 Pollster Ratings and was ranked first among all colleges and universities in the nation and 10th overall by Nate Silver in 2014.
The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), housed at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, conducts and supports applied policy research designed to inform state, local, and urban policy issues. Through integrated research, teaching, and outreach involving academic researchers, students, policymakers and practitioners, CLOSUP seeks to foster understanding of today’s state and local policy problems, and to find effective solutions to those problems.
The Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion (MCIPO) was founded in 2001 with a mission to conduct scientific based research related to public opinion at the local, state and national level. Since its founding the MCIPO has focused its attention on measuring the public’s views on electoral and public policy issues with a concentration on environmental and health matters. MCIPO earned an A in FiveThirtyEight’s 2018 Pollster Ratings.
Funding for the NSEE surveys to-date has been provided by general revenues of the University of Michigan Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. The authors did not accept any stipend or supplemental income in the completion of the survey or the reports from this survey. The NSEE is committed to transparency in all facets of our work, including timely release and posting of data from each survey wave, including providing online access to NSEE survey instruments, data tables, and downloadable datasets.