WashPost poll exposes cap-and-trade divisions

June 25, 2009

This story from today’s Washington Post is one of those where the headline could have been “Cap and trade plan divides voters” as easily as “Limits on emissions have wide support”.  Public opinion on climate change action is very sensitive to how the plan (and the consequences) are framed. 
There is fairly widespread approval for the government to take some action to limit greenhouse gas emissions — but only if the resulting rise in energy costs stays low.  If it involves sharper rises in the cost of energy, support begins to erode rapidly. 
It is one reason that proponents of climate-change action have settled on a very gradualist approach — one which deliberately defers and obscures costs — as the best way to get a cap-and-trade based system through Congress.

“Three-quarters of Americans think the federal government should regulate the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and factories to reduce global warming, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with substantial majority support from Democrats, Republicans and independents.

But fewer Americans — 52 percent — support a cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions similar to the one the House may vote on as early as tomorrow. That is slightly less support than cap and trade enjoyed in a late July 2008 poll. Forty-two percent of those surveyed this month oppose such a program.

The Washington Post-ABC News survey showed that support slipped slightly when people were asked whether they would be willing to pay higher prices in general or higher electricity bills in exchange for significant decreases in greenhouse gases. Although 62 percent of those surveyed said they would support regulation even if it raised the price of purchases and 56 percent would back cap and trade if it resulted in a $10 increase in utility costs, 44 percent said they would back a cap-and-trade system if it boosted monthly electricity bills by $25.”

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