Results of a study released Tuesday by the American Energy Alliance found that most voters object to tax credits for electric cars.
Tellingly, the poll also shows that the public generally supports electric cars themselves.
Two-thirds said they are better for the environment than than gasoline powered cars, and 50 percent (a plurality) named that as the best reason to support the sale of electric vehicles, followed by 34 percent who said they reduce dependence on foreign oil.
"The fossil fuel industry, which sponsored this poll, is searching for reasons to keep us hooked on oil," says Luke Tonachel, director of the clean vehicles and fuels program with NRDC. "Yet their own poll shows that Americans recognize that electric vehicles reduce pollution and dependence on oil. Multiple independent polls also show that Americans overwhelming support strong clean vehicle and fuel economy standards. That’s why states are stepping up their clean vehicle programs as the Trump administration seeks to rollback public clean air safeguards."
When it comes to tax credits the poll again split the sample between two different groups. One group, who has told, "The federal government pays everyone who buys an electric vehicle 75 hundred dollars," skewed toward saying that was "about right" (27 percent).
A second group, who was told "Taxpayers pay everyone who buys an electric vehicle 75 hundred dollars through a federal tax credit," skewed toward saying that was "way too much" (29 percent).
Respondents who where reminded by the questioner that they have some skin in the game were much more likely say the tax credits are too high.
Critics call this "push polling," setting up the question to lead respondents to the answer the pollsters favor.
Smokestacks pollution air quality
The wording of both questions falls short of being precisely accurate, since not all electric car buyers qualify for the full tax credit.
When asked generally whether taxpayers should subsidize electric vehicles, 59 percent said no. That number rose to 67 percent when respondents were asked whether they thought they should help pay for people to buy electric vehicles.
The survey also asked respondents specifically whether wealthy people should get the same $7,500 tax credit as others. A slim majority, 55 percent, said no. The prompt leading to the question noted that the average electric car buyer makes $150,000 a year.
Writing in DeSmog Blog, Mark Renburke, executive director of Drive Electric America, disputed those figures, noting that 80 percent of electric cars are leased, and that only 38 percent of lessees earn more than $100,000 a year.
The study was funded by the American Energy Alliance, a lobbying group funded by Charles and David Koch. AEA's president is Tom Pyle, formerly head of Donald Trump's energy transition team.
It was conducted by MWR Strategies, another Washington lobbying group that does a lot of work for oil industry clients including the Kochs, and is headed my Michael McKenna, who preceded Pyle as head of the transition team.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
Despite negativity toward electric-car subsidies, respondents said the biggest problem with electric cars, cited by 39 percent, is that they're too expensive (followed by, their driving range is too short, at 33 percent).
The pollsters asked people how much they would be willing to pay per year to support the sale of electric vehicles. The average response was $678.
According to the Tax Foundation, Americans filed more than 141 million tax returns in 2017. Spread over just more than 27,000 electric car sales, that would amount to $1.44 per taxpayer, even if every electric-car buyer did receive the full $7,500 tax credit.
Respondents also objected to being asked to pay for building additional electric car charging infrastructure as part of publicly determined electricity rate plans. In another split-sample question, 67 percent said power companies should not be able to spread the cost of charging stations among all ratepayers, and 69 percent said electricity customers should not "be forced to pay for charging stations used by owners of electric vehicles."
A bare majority, 51 percent, said that "while electric vehicles may be good for some consumers, we don't need government policies that force consumers to buy them."
Questions on emissions standards
After prompting respondents with information that fuel economy standards lead buyers of large cars to subsidize small car production, 51 percent called the approach unfair. Noting that tighter fuel economy standards starting in 2012 boosted prices of cars by $3,000, a widely disputed figure, 56 percent said that was way too much.
The survey also asked respondents their opinions about CO2 emissions. 54 percent said global warming is mostly caused by human activity. A plurality of 27 percent also said climate change is the most pressing environmental issue facing the United States right now.
With the EPA moving to stop increasing corporate average fuel economy requirements, pollsters also asked whether fuel economy standards are a good way to address global warming. 56 percent said yes, and 51 percent said it should be the federal government's responsibility to do so.
In its press release about the survey AEA didn't mention the results of the global warming questions.