If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.

 

Trickle Down Environmentalism Has Little Public Support

A Commentary By Scott Rasmussen

Friday, February 24, 2012

As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama declared his support for green energy development. "For the sake of our economy, our security and the future of our planet," he said, "we must end the age of oil in our time."

As president, Obama called for putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015. He backed that call with more than $5 billion in taxpayer subsidies to jump-start the electric car industry. The president also put in place a program that gave $7,500 to anyone who would actually buy an electric car. Despite that support, sales were minimal in 2011, so his new budget proposes hiking that subsidy to $10,000 a car.

Voters are skeptical. Just 29 percent favor the $10,000 subsidies, while 58 percent are opposed. When told that reaching the goal of a million electric cars on the road could cost taxpayers $10 billion in subsidies, opposition reaches 65 percent. Voters are looking to reduce federal spending, not increase it.

But there's an important detail suggesting the president's plan could be an even bigger loser in the court of public opinion. The CEO of General Motors said recently that the average income of those buying Chevy's electric Volt is approximately $170,000 a year. That puts electric car buyers in the same league as BMW buyers or those who drive a Mercedes-Benz. It may not be the 1 percent, but it qualifies in the top 7 percent of all American earners. That's a more elite group than those who buy Cadillacs or Lexus cars.

Such trickle-down environmentalism is hardly appealing to voters. Seventy-three percent believe those who earn $150,000 or more should pay the full cost of the car themselves. Only 13 percent think a government subsidy is appropriate.

While agreeing with the president on the importance of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, voters don't see providing subsidies to wealthy electric car buyers as the way to reach that goal. Instead, 75 percent say that the United States should be doing more to develop its own gas and oil resources. Most (57 percent) think the best way to do that is through free-market competition. Only 27 percent believe government subsidies and regulations represent a better approach.

The president views taxpayer subsidies for electric cars as an investment in "clean energy technology -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people." But Americans are justifiably skeptical of political investments. Only 11 percent believe that government officials are better than private investors at seeing the potential benefits of new technologies. Seventy-one percent think investors do a better job. If private investors don't see the value and pass on an investment, 64 percent think it's likely any government investment will be a waste of money.

One reason for this is that investors are most interested in producing things that consumers will buy. Political investments are more about headlines. When it comes to buying electric cars, the headlines may be about going green, but the reality is most Americans say they'll be motivated to go electric for a far more mundane reason: When the price of gas gets too high, they'll switch.

COPYRIGHT 2012 SCOTT RASMUSSEN

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

See Other Political Commentaries.

See Other Commentaries by Scott Rasmussen

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.