Economy

Americans Green-Light Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards

Majority support spans political parties and demographics

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A recent Gallup Poll reveals solid majority support for higher fuel efficiency standards such as those President Obama announced Tuesday. In March, 80% of Americans said they favored higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

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Flanked by executives from the auto industry, Obama announced standards that will require that all new vehicles average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The president's plan will also require new greenhouse emissions standards, which, in 2007, 79% of Americans told Gallup they supported. The Obama administration puts the total additional cost per vehicle at $1,300, with an environmental benefit equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road. Obama estimated that the additional cost to car buyers would be offset within three years by costs saved on gasoline.

Obama announced his proposal along with state governors from both sides of the aisle. While Democrats show more widespread support for higher fuel efficiency standards, 72% of Republicans also say they are in favor -- highlighting the opportunity for bipartisan collaboration on this issue.

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An examination of support among demographic subcategories also finds strong majority support for higher fuel efficiency standards -- generally above 70% -- across the board. Support varies slightly by region: 77% in the West, 79% in the South, 82% in the Midwest, and 83% in the East.

Not surprisingly, Americans who feel more strongly about the environment and the need to protect it are more likely to support higher fuel efficiency standards. However, even Americans who are not particularly worried about the environment or global warming also favor higher fuel standards: three-quarters of each group is in favor.

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Underscoring Obama's likely confidence in moving forward with his decision, 68% of Americans last July said they would be more rather than less likely to vote for a candidate who supported raising fuel mileage standards on vehicles.

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Implications

Gallup finds strong and consistent majority support for higher fuel efficiency standards, as it typically does for proposals designed to help the environment. It has also recorded similar support in the last few years for higher emissions standards. However, it important to note that Americans' support for specific environmental policies or actions is often somewhat lower (but still usually above the majority level) when respondents are reminded of the costs they may have to bear personally.

In the past, Gallup has found somewhat fewer Americans willing to buy a hybrid car when the higher costs of hybrids are mentioned than when they are not mentioned, and lower support for steps to curb air pollution, depending on how much the costs of the products they buy would increase. To this end, Obama was smart to describe how an additional higher upfront cost is likely to be offset by spending less on gas in the future. To maintain the high levels of support with which the government begins this endeavor, both the administration and the auto industry would be well-served to ensure that the benefits to consumers ultimately do outweigh the costs.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,012 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 5-8, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/118543/Americans-Green-Light-Higher-Fuel-Efficiency-Standards.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030