Bipartisan Majorities Favor Tax Incentives For Clean Energy and Efficiency

A new in-depth survey finds bipartisan majorities support a number of tax incentives that seek to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The proposals, all introduced in Congress, include measures to encourage developing alternative sources of clean energy–such as solar and wind, making homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient, and the use of electric vehicles. The support from majorities of Republicans and Democrats was rooted in voter concern about the health effects of fossil fuels as well as their impact on climate.

In the innovative survey of 4,828 registered voters by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, and released today by Voice of the People and Common Ground Solutions, respondents were given a briefing on the current debate about whether to adopt such tax incentives and evaluated arguments for and against. The survey content was reviewed by experts on both sides of the debate to ensure the content was accurate and balanced and that the arguments were the strongest ones being made. 

Credits for purchasing clean energy equipment, producing clean energy, or investing in first of its kind clean energy technology got bipartisan support including:  

  • for purchasing equipment that produces clean energy, such as solar panels or wind turbines, or stores clean energy,” credits up to 30% of the cost (75%, Republicans 58%, Democrats 91%).
  • for producing electricity with clean energy: credits equal to up to 5-10% of the average retail cost of electricity.” (76%, Republicans 62%, Democrats 89%)
  • for an investment in the development of first-of-its-kind clean energy technology to produce, store or distribute energy: credits up to 30% of the investment (71%, Republicans 57%, Democrats 83%)

Tax credits for more energy efficient residential buildings were especially popular including:

  • for building a new energy-efficient home or residential building; credits up to $3,000 (79%, Republicans 70%, Democrats 88%)
  • for making energy-saving improvements such as fuel-efficient lighting, doors, windows, or insulation: credits up to $6,500 (78%, Republicans 70%, Democrats 87%)
  • for installing a new energy-efficient heating or air conditioning system: credits up to $1,500 (84%, Republicans 75%, Democrats 93%)

Nearly as popular were tax credits for more energy efficient commercial buildings including:

  • for building new energy-efficient commercial buildings: credits up to $4.75 per square foot (72%, Republicans 61%, Democrats 83%)
  • for making energy-saving improvements to existing commercial buildings: credits up to $9.25 per square foot.” (66%, Republicans 52%, Democrats 78%)

Credits for producing or purchasing electric vehicles, while always eliciting majority support, did not always get majority Republican support:

  • for manufacturers of fully electric buses, a tax credit equal to 10% of the sales price of each bus sold. (69%, Republicans 52%, Democrats 84%)
  • for people buying a new electric car, a tax credit of $7,500 (63%, Republicans 43%, Democrats 80%)
  • for people earning $30,000 or less who purchase a used electric car: a tax credit of $5,000 (64%, Republicans 42%, Democrats 84%)

Two thirds also favored a 75 percent tax credit for installing electric vehicle charging stations that would be available to the public, including eight in ten (82%) Democrats. A majority of Republicans did not favor the 75 percent tax credit, but a modest majority of 54% went for a smaller tax credit of 50 percent.

Following the initial briefing, respondents evaluated arguments for and against the idea that it should be a high priority for the government to reduce air pollution that has negative health effects, This .  Overall, 78% said it should be a high priority to reduce air pollution, including nearly all Democrats (98%), and 54% of Republicans. 

They also evaluated arguments for and against the idea that it should be a high priority to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.  This included an argument stressing the evidence for climate change and its negative impacts, as well an argument that challenged the evidence and highlighted that reducing greenhouse gases would have unfair impacts on people working in certain parts of the economy like the coal industry.  Reducing greenhouse gases was rated as a high priority by three in four (74%), including 98% of Democrats, but just under half of Republicans (45%).

The survey was conducted online September 17 – October 1, 2020 with a national probability-based sample of 4,828 registered voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s larger sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. The margin of error was +/- 1.4 -2.0%, depending on whether the question went to all or half the sample.

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