News: CJ Exclusives

N.C. Voters Reject High-Cost Climate Policies

Poll shows 64 percent oppose plans that raise gasoline, electric bills

RALEIGH – Nearly two-thirds of North Carolina voters oppose climate change legislation that would raise gasoline prices or electricity rates, according to a new poll. Opposition grows as the potential costs increase, according to the July Civitas Decision Maker poll.

“This poll clearly demonstrates what any thinking person could have guessed: North Carolinians are not willing to pay more for climate policies that will have no measurable impact on the climate,” said Dr. Roy Cordato, the John Locke Foundation’s Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar. “Legislators should keep these poll results in mind as alarmists continue to push costly measures in the name of fighting global warming.”

The Civitas Decision Maker poll featured the following statement: “In the next one to two years, the state of North Carolina will likely consider legislation to address what many perceive as the problem of global warming.” Survey participants then faced up to four questions on the topic.

When asked if they would “favor such legislation” if it resulted in higher gasoline prices, 64 percent said no. Just 28 percent of respondents said yes, while 8 percent indicated they were not sure.

The poll yielded similar results when voters were asked if they would favor climate legislation that resulted in higher electricity rates: 64 percent said no, 26 percent said yes, and 10 percent answered “not sure.”

Voters who answered yes to either question faced this follow-up: “How much more would you be willing to pay?” Possible answers ranged from “5 percent or less” to “over 30 percent.”

In the case of gas prices, 41 percent of those who said they would be willing to pay higher prices limited that willingness to increases of 5 percent or less. Fifty-six percent of those willing to pay higher gas prices in the name of climate change policies would accept increases of no more than 10 percent. Just 5 percent of those who accepted higher gas prices would be willing to accept increases of 30 percent or more.

Support for higher prices was even weaker in the case of electricity rates. Among those who said they would be willing to pay larger electric bills because of global warming policies, 48 percent indicated their willingness to accept increases of up to 5 percent, and 74 percent would accept increases of no more than 10 percent. Just 6 percent of those willing to pay higher electric bills endorsed increases of 30 percent or more.

“Let’s be clear about what this is saying,” Cordato said. “We already know that only a fraction of voters — less than 30 percent — are willing to accept any gasoline or electricity price increases tied to global warming policies. Of that small group, most are willing to accept only small increases.”

“Only a tiny portion of those surveyed are willing to accept the types of price increases that will come about if North Carolina moves forward with drastic proposals sold as measures to fight global warming,” he added. “Commitment to the cause is very low, despite the massive propaganda campaign that is currently being waged on radio and TV.”

The N.C. Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change is considering nearly 56 policy proposals designed to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Many of those policies would drive up costs of gasoline and electricity, Cordato said. Others would create new taxes and taxpayer-funded government subsidies, hurt the poor disproportionately, and ignore the importance of consumer choice and freedom. The policies’ potential harmful impacts are detailed in “Taxes, Subsidies, and Regulation: A Guide to North Carolina’s Proposed Global Warming Policies,” a report from Daren Bakst, JLF Legal and Regulatory Policy Analyst.

Tel Opinion Research of Alexandria, Va., conducted the Decision Maker poll of 600 registered voters from July 14-17. Pollsters screened for likely 2008 voters, and they interviewed respondents who voted in the 2002, 2004, or 2006 general elections, along with those who are newly registered to vote since 2006.

The new poll should send a signal to policymakers, Cordato said. “Voters are making a clear choice,” he said. “They do not want to pay more for their gasoline or electricity, just so that politicians can pursue the goals of global warming alarmists. Even the small number of voters who would accept some price increases are unwilling to accept the large-scale hikes that would be tied to policies now on the table in North Carolina.”

“In other words, voters are telling their representatives that the costs of these policies are too high, regardless of the benefits,” Cordato added. “Once you factor in the fact that none of these policies would lead to noticeable benefits in fighting global warming, it’s crystal clear that voters think North Carolina should drop these policy proposals now.”