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Poll: 81% of Americans Oppose Gas Tax Hike To Encourage Sales of More Efficient Cars

A new Rasmussen telephone poll found that 81% of Americans oppose an “increase [in] the tax on gasoline by a large amount” as a way to encourage the purchase of more fuel-efficient cars. Eight percent are undecided, and 10% supported such an increase.

These sentiments remain largely unchanged from nearly two years when 86% said they opposed the idea of raising gas taxes by $0.50 cents a gallon as a result of congressional legislation that would encourage the development of more fuel-efficient cars.

In April 2008, 60% of Americans favored suspending the federal gas tax completely for the summer to offset soaring gas prices.

Other findings of the poll:

  • Younger Americans are slightly more supportive of raising the gas tax to encourage the purchase of more fuel-efficient cars than their elders, but even among those ages 18 to 29, 79% are opposed.

  • 15% of men support a big tax increase on gasoline to push sales of fuel-efficient cars, compared to 6% of women.

  • 13% of both Democrats and adults not affiliated with either major party like the gas tax proposal versus just 4% of Republicans.

  • 18% of government employees agree, compared to 7% who work in the private sector.

Americans also give mixed reviews to the “Cash for Clunkers” plan now moving through Congress that would give car owners up to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new, more fuel-efficient car if they turn in their old vehicle.

Only 22% of Americans are willing to spend more to buy an energy-efficient hybrid car to help the environment. Even last October, after record high prices at the pump, just 37% said they were more likely to buy a hybrid car than they were a year earlier.

In a poll earlier this year, 73% rejected the idea of taxing drivers based on how many miles they drive to help fund the building and repair of roads and bridges. Only 18% supported a mileage tax.

The latest poll was a national survey of 1,000 adults, conducted 6-7 May 2009. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.



Why not ease in to it? Increase the gas tax $0.005 every month. Six cents a year. Indefinitely.

People might complain at first, but would quickly quiet because the price at the pump wouldn't change noticeably.

Sure, there'd be pressure to stop the gas tax increase every once in a while (every two months?) but I think it would quiet after a while, and even if it only lasted for a year or two, it would still be the first increase in a long time.

Would the increase be enough to change behavior? Well, all price increases reduce consumption a little bit, and if the money raised from the gas tax were used to help people consume less gasoline in the long run (everything from mass transit to bike programs to encouraging more efficient autos), that would help to reduce demand on the other side too.

With a strong majority in the House and 60ish Senators, if the Dems don't do it now when will they do it? We know the drill baby drill Republicans won't raise the gas tax when in power, so let's just do it and be done with it.


The survey may be misleading in that pretty much anyone would say no if you asked if they wanted to pay "a lot more" in taxes. I wonder what people would say about "a little more"? I agree that we would hardly notice a gradual tax increase on gasoline. Gas prices WILL go up, since OPEC has discovered that we will indeed pay $150 a barrel, so we might as well capture some of that increase in the form of taxes that can be used to get us off of oil for good. We absolutely WILL pay more for gasoline, so we might as well get on with it and put the extra money to good use. Why let foreign oil producers pocket it all?


A decline from 86% to 81% may seem little. A more positive view is that the number of people that do not reject an increase in gas tax has risen by 35% (14% --> 19%).

Will S

This survey did not mention a 100% tax rebate, where every taxpayer is given back a straight cut of the revenues collected. Those who reduce (or eliminate) their gas consumption would see a proportional transportation cost drop.


With such strong anti-tax feelings, the oil suppliers may have to do what the USA governments cannot do.

One could always ask Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi-Arabia, Irak, Iran, Nigeria, UAE etc to charge a progressive special fee of $5/barrel per month on every barrel exported to USA. After one year, oil would go from $60 to $120 a barrel and to $180+ after two years and $240+ after 3 years.

The huge surpluses created at the exporting countries could be used to buy USA bonds at a low 5% flat rate to cover part of the huge USA deficits.

This way, USA citizens would not have to pay extra fuel taxes, but would go deeper and deeper in debt instead until Santa-Clauss domes around.


"Only 22% of Americans are willing..."

Since only 2.2% actually DO buy a more fuel efficient hybrid, there is quite a gap between "willing" and doing. This is what you find in marketing. Lots of folks say that they are interested, but few actually follow through.

Since taxation can be about getting people to do what you want, why not an oil import fee? We want to import less oil, so start there. It will flow through to the pump, but might encourage domestic development on leased land that has not been touched. It might also spur biofuel plants that can actually make money.


There are many ways to present this issue and make it more appealing. As SJC it an "import fee".
Or, ask people if we should lower the national debt.
Most Americans were opposed to entering WW2 until pearl harbor. So, we need a pearl harbor...that would be another gas shortage, coupled with 6/gal. gas prices
We need to slap on the gas tax now while prices are only around $2/gal.


danm & SJC:

Progressive import fees, tarifs, duties or taxes would work and could give the same end results as a new added gas tax at the pump.

However, WTO + Free Trade signed agreements would have to be violated. It could lead to trade wars and new oil wars. USA may not want (or finance) neither of them right now.

The only or easy way to make it acceptable by the majority in USA, may be to have others (the suppliers) do it by progressively (over 3 to 5 years) raising crude oil price to the level required to move retail gas price to about $8/gal. Something around $240/barrel could do it.

The problem with passing the puck to the crude oil suppliers is that they would get to be very very rich and could buy out most of the world within 2 or 3 decades.

If the objective is to accellerate oil import reduction, a new direct but progressive significant fuel tax + a massive 20-year vehicle electrification program are required. The added fuel tax could adjusted to finance 100% of electrification cost and be revenue/expenditure neutral for the government. You can't rely on Santa... he is almost broke..


The WTO would say that we are being unfair to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, so they could put tariffs on imported goods from the U.S. I do not think that they would. I also do not think that it would ruffle any feathers with OPEC. They would still sell lots of oil to the U.S. at high prices.

The consumer would pay at the pump one way or the other, but when it comes to politically acceptable measures, putting on an oil import fee is not objectionable to most consumers. Adding a $1 per gallon federal tax at the pump IS and would be fought viciously.


Could it be that 2 + 2 does not equal 4 everywhere. Some people like to have, or were told that they could have, their cake and eat it too forever.

Very cheap oil, as low as $3/barrel, has mislead many countries (and their misinformed inhabitants) to believe that everybody could waste energy and drive 3 and 4-ton gas guzzlers indefinately without negative impacts.

This was OK for over 100 years or for as long as countries with crude oil let outsiders extract their oil for a small handful of dollars.

Times have changed. Oil producing countries will reightfully want more and more for this rare commondity.

It is a wonder that it is not $200/barrel already. Those of us who do not want to reduce crude oil consumption will have to be prepared to pay modre for it.


Maybe it's time for some leadership from Washington. Raising the gasoline tax is something we have to do, even though it isn't popular. It would be tragic to wait until oil prices go back up and strangle the economy before we agree to do something.


We need another Pearl Harbor. Give me a break.

FDR provoked the Japanese into launching the Pearl attack. Then he put the blame on some unsuspecting Navy Admirals to be the fall guys. All so that he could get into the war in Europe through the back door. He called it the "Day of Infamy", I'd call it the Day of Deceit.

When the fighting stopped Eastern Europe was under Stalin's heel. FDR went so far as to claim Godless Uncle Joe to be a Christian gentleman.

Oh, I almost forgot prior to his election didn't he promise the voters that no US boys would die in another European war?

And some useful idiots still insist this charlatan was the greatest US President of the last century.


Raising taxes on consumers is a classic lawyer solution to a technical problem.


In the UK, we've been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. In 1992 the government introduced a Fuel Duty Escalator which saw taxes increase by at least 5% above inflation. This was revised after a change of government to 6% in 1997. This doesn't sound a lot but this has helped fuel prices climb from around 35 pence per litre to 96 pence per litre today. 75% of what we pay at the pump now goes to the taxman, not oil companies. Or to put it another way, fuel is taxed at 400% of its market price.

The policy was claimed to encourage people to buy more efficient vehicles and drive less. But this was simply a mask for raising tax revenues to be poured into a bureaucratic black hole. There were no regulations for car makers to meet minimum efficiency standards, so the policy did not have much impact, or any serious investment in any intergrated transport networks. So people just drive the same cars the same distance but just pay more by offsetting their spending elsewhere. it does not have the desired effect.

Even if there were more dramatically efficient vehicles, the poorest households who need their cars for work find themselves not being able to until the 'now new' depreciate to an affordable level in 5-years or so. To add insult to injury they now have to pay eye-watering prices at the pump.

If climate change (which was originally a UK invention to justify nuclear power and, yes - higher fuel taxes), and energy security (the real issue - sooer or later) are to be adressed, we need a roadmap to increasingly decarbonise fuels with algae and other sustainable biomass inputs, alongside an efficiency push on vehicles. these are the policies that will make a real difference - not taxes hidden behind a green smokescreen!!



You seem to conveniently forget that petrol taxes are used for maintaining the road network. He who uses the road more, pays more. He who drives a heavy car (high consumption) damages the road more and pays more. Simple and elegant.

The policy was claimed to encourage people to buy more efficient vehicles and drive less.

Which is exactly what has happened. See statistics from the DfT. The fuel economy of new petrol cars has decreased from 8.2 l/100 km in 1997 to 7.1 in 2007. The average mileage of British cars dropped from 9700 in 1995 to 8870 in 2007.

So what you write thereafter:

There were no regulations for car makers to meet minimum efficiency standards, so the policy did not have much impact [...] So people just drive the same cars the same distance but just pay more by offsetting their spending elsewhere. it does not have the desired effect.

is wrong.

richard schumacher

Two problems with surveys: people are ignorant, and how questions are worded and presented makes a big difference. Surveys have been conducted which find that a majority of Americans oppose the Bill of Rights. A different survey (of the very same people in this gas tax survey) might find that a majority of them support an increased gas tax to pay for cleaner air, energy independence and more mass transit.



In the UK receipts from transport taxes goes to the treasury but only a sixth gets spent on transport schemes. If all taxes over the years was spent on highways, rail, buses and so on - we'd have a first class transport system - less dependency on the car - and for when we need to drive we would have a decent road network to use.

I accept that fuel economy has decreased but I cannot accept that this has happened as a direct result of fuel tax policy, as car production responds to a more internation market rather than one that is more local. This may change now with European Laws demanding CO2 averages. Fuel economy is also improving on a more global scale, but this is in response the recent opil spike and the looming prospect of higher oil prices in the long term, rather than the artificial tax policies of individual countries. In the long terms growing concerns about energy security will have to be addressed and in my view a long terms decarbonisation strategy is more realistic altarnative that pricing people who can afford it into more efficient vehicles or those who can't off the road altogether.

There is a lot of evidence, albeit anecdotal, that people having to cope with increasing fuel bills cut back elsewhere. It seems politically expedient to raise 'fuel poverty' as an issue when it comes to home heating and electricity, but when it comes to people having difficulty affording to travel to work, the phrase 'fuel poverty' does not apply, which smacks of double standards in my view. The high capital cost of a more efficient car effctively locks some people into running older vehicles (which incidently is more suistainable if it saves the significant resources to produce a new vehicle)

I may appear be coming across as a proponent of the car culture but I am just trying to set out the reality and cynicism towards transport policy, which in some circles gets hijacked by a more left wing political agenda on others used as a cash cow to raise revenue. No doubt soon taxes will be raised to pay for rising recession debts instead of any well intentioned transport projects.


It has been clearly demonstrated that individual consumption of tobacco, fuel and other commodities goes down when price goes up.

Progressively double, triple or quadruple the price of gas with a progressive gas tax over a 5 to 10 years period and people will buy many more electrified vehicles. It certainly worked that way with the new tobacco tax.

People will accept new gas/fuel taxes when they understand the reasons. More education is required. The schools may be the right place to start.

PS: What approach should be used with fatening junk foods?


Harvey - you seem to assume that people drive just for the hell of it to annoy others .

People can choose whether of not to smoke, or to eat fast food. But when it comes to transport a car is a necessity to many people. It becomes very difficult for people, especially those in rural areas - the remote parts of Scotland for example, to afford to travel if there are no alternatives. And even though | have the luxury of being able to walk or use the Metro myself to get to work I still have respect for the needs that other people who dont have those choice luxuries, and therefore I don't resort to the moral high ground.

Sure, taxes are necessary to pay for infrastructure and so on - but it's a question of what's fair and the government in the UK overstepped the mark through its fuel duty escalator, hence the fuel protests of 2000. Don't also forget that higher taxes on fuel also have knock on effects on the price of goods and services which need to be delivered, so if taxes go up, so does the price of goods as businesses pass the on costs. You do have a point with tobacco and junk food, as cutting back on those clearly unecessary items may help some people to offset their travel costs and be healthier at the same time!

My point I agree with taxes to pay for infrastructure and services, but then using it as a tool for (albeit dubious) environmenal reasons is like cracking a nut with a sledgehammer - it hurts the poorest most and does little to influence those who can choose a new car to buy a more efficient one. In my view introducing average CO2 limits, as being introduced in Europe is a fairer solution as it puts the onus on car makers, not the consumer to encourage people to use more efficient vehicles through the supply side. The consumer will benefit in turn as more innovative ways to increase efficiency are developed and in turn the supply of more efficiant cars will filter through to the second hand market and become more affordable to those who, in the meantime remain to rely on older vehicles.


I just wanted to post that putting an import tax on foreign oil would *not* affect WTO obligations, as oil and gas are specifically exempt from WTO treaties.

Otherwise the oil consuming countries could take OPEC countries to WTO court for fixing quotas, as their cartel actions would not be allowed - but as the WTO is now they cannot.


Thank you Newton for that information. It seems to me that we have not added an oil import fee the last 30 years, because the oil companies don't want it. This sort of shows who has been running the country.

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