Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax



The following are the results of the first report from a national survey of the American public completed in November 2011 by the Yale Project on Climate Change.

Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies in November 2011 finds that public support for a variety of climate change and energy policies remains high, across party lines.

The study also finds that a majority of Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax and oppose subsidies for the fossil fuel and ethanol industries:


  • 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a very high (12%), high (25%), or medium (33%) priority for the president and Congress, including 44 percent of registered Republicans, 72 percent of Independents and 85 percent of Democrats.
  • 90 percentof Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a very high (30%), high (35%), or medium (25%) priority for the president and Congress, including 82 percent of registered Republicans, 91 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.
  • 54 percent of Americans say that a candidate's views on global warming will be either the 'single most important issue' (2%) or 'one of several important issues' (52%) in determining their vote for President next year, including 39 percent of registered Republicans, 55 percent of Independents, and 65 percent of Democrats.

Revenue-Neutral Carbon Taxes

  • 65 percent of Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would 'help create jobs and decrease pollution,' including majorities of registered Republicans (51%), Independents (69%), and Democrats (77%).
  • Likewise,60 percentof Americans support a $10 per ton carbon tax if the revenue were used to reduce federal income taxes, even when told this would 'slightly increase the cost of many things you buy, including food, clothing, and electricity.' This policy is supported by 48 percent of registered Republicans, 50 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Democrats.
  • 49 percentof Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax if the revenue was instead returned to each American family equally as an annual check. Only 44 percent support this policy if the revenues were instead used to pay down the national debt.

Opposition to Subsidies

  • 69 percent of Americans oppose federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, including 67 percent of registered Republicans, 80 percent of Independents, and 68 percent of Democrats.
  • 54 percent of Americans oppose subsidies to the ethanol industry to make fuel from corn, including 56 percent of registered Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, and 49 percent of Democrats.

Support for Other Policies

  • Public support remains high for regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (73%), signing an international treaty to cut emissions (66%), and requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources,even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year.
  • Since May of 2011, there has been a decline in 'strong support' for research into renewable energy sources (-9), tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (-11), and building more nuclear power plants (-5). However, overall public support (strongly and somewhat support) for the first two policies remains high (78% each). Overall public support for nuclear power now stands at 42 percent.


  • Despite ongoing concerns about the economy,66 percentof Americans say the U.S. should undertake a large (26%) or medium-scale effort (40%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.
  • 85 percent of Americans (including 76% of registered Republicans, 83% of Independents, and 90% of Democrats) say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (54%), or has no effect (31%). Only 15 percent say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs.


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