Public Opinion and Climate Policy

Laser Talk

This page was updated on 05/23/18 09:42 CDT.

Question:  What does the public think about climate change and carbon pricing?

Answer:  People are getting the message that climate change is real and putting a price on carbon is a good way to address it.

In March 2018, two universities – Yale and George Mason – issued a report [1] showing that 70 percent of Americans agree global warming is happening, outnumbering those who don’t by 5 to 1. The number who are ‘very sure’ it’s happening was 49 percent – an increase of 12 percent since 2015.

Yale University has also produced Climate Opinion Maps [2,3] using a statistical model to show how well people understand climate facts, risk, and policy right down to the state, county, and Congressional district level. The model was validated with polling results in four states and two metro areas, showing that the model gave reasonably accurate results.

Here’s one result they found in 2014 that’s relevant to CCL’s proposal. [2] When asked if they support “a carbon tax if refunded to every American household,” 44 percent said yes and only 25 percent said no.

Shortly after that Yale study, a poll from Stanford, the New York Times, and Resources for the Future [4] found that requiring companies to pay a greenhouse gas tax and then giving ‘all this tax money … to all Americans equally’ was favored by 67 percent to only 31 percent opposed.

While the specific poll language and methods differ, these reports show that the public approves of a policy that imposes a price on greenhouse gas emissions and then returns all of the money to American households.

  1. Leiserowitz, A., et al. “Climate Change in the American Mind.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (17 Apr 2018).
  2. Howe, P., et al. “Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2014.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (6 Apr 2015).
  3. Marlon, J., et al. “Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (2017).
  4. “Global Warming National Poll: Part III.” Resources for the Future (Apr 2015).

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