From carbon taxes to tax breaks, emission reduction policies have widespread support

A new study surveying public opinion on proposed environmental policies reveals that Americans are widely supportive of climate mitigation measures.


Sept. 23, 2020

News Type

Press Release

As the general election nears amid a historic season of hurricanes, wildfires, and heat waves, a new survey finds that majorities of Americans are supportive of climate change mitigation measures. This suggests that policymakers can introduce legislation that would enjoy public approval—including a green stimulus package to help deal with the economic downturn associated with COVID-19.

The new report of results from the survey, Climate Insights 2020: Policies and Politics, is the third report in the 2020 series by researchers at Stanford University, Resources for the Future, and ReconMR. The installment offers the public and policymakers an opportunity to consider American appetite for proposed climate policies, as well as the perceived effects those policies may have on Americans’ livelihoods and the wellbeing of the nation.

“Large majorities of Americans support federal efforts to reduce emissions,” Jon Krosnick, Stanford University professor and report coauthor, said. “Our new results identify some climate mitigation policies that legislators can pursue in the future with widespread—and bipartisan—public support.”

Topline Findings

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans favor government efforts to shift electricity generation toward renewable sources through tax breaks (83%) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants (81%).
  • More than three-quarters of Americans favor the government requiring or giving tax breaks to companies to construct more energy-efficient buildings (75%), cars (71%), and appliances (71%).
  • Increased consumer taxes on electricity and gasoline to incentivize people to use less are the least popular policy options surveyed (favored by 28% and 43%, respectively).
  • Two-thirds of Americans (66%) believe that future federal stimulus packages should include efforts to create new jobs and technologies to combat climate change.
  • Majorities of Americans favor policies implemented by the Obama administration but rolled back by the Trump Administration. In particular, more than three-quarters of Americans support the Paris Accord (81%) and the Clean Power Plan (77%).
  • A majority of Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate that makes “green” statements (64%) and less likely to vote for a candidate that makes “anti-green” statements (67%).

“As we head into the first presidential debate, it’s tempting to think of climate change as a partisan, polarized issue,” Krosnick said. “Our research shows that for many mitigation policies, sizable majorities—and sometimes vast majorities—favor them.”

“The findings in this report highlight significant opportunities for leaders to pursue policies that will resonate with Americans—the legislation and the platforms that could enjoy bipartisan support and buy-in from American constituents,” he said.

To learn more about these findings, read the policies and politics installment of Climate Insights 2020 by Jon Krosnick, social psychologist at Stanford University and RFF university fellow, and Bo MacInnis, lecturer at Stanford University and PhD economist. You can also try out our interactive data tool, which allows users to explore the data in greater depth.

Future installments of reports in this series will focus on political dynamics, opinions in the states, and electric vehicles. Previous installments of reports focus on overall trends and natural disasters.

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

For more information, please see our media resources page or contact Media Relations and Communications Specialist Annie McDarris.


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