At this year's U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, 30 countries pledged to make zero-emission vehicles attainable to drivers by 2030 or sooner. The Biden administration has set a more conservative target — aiming to reduce gas-powered vehicle sales to 50% of all purchases by 2030 — but registered U.S. voters may favor a more aggressive target.
According to a new poll, slightly more than half of voters (55%) would support a full phase-out of the sale of new gas vehicles by 2030. The poll was conducted by Climate Nexus, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Coltura, a Seattle-based nonprofit focused on promoting clean alternatives to gas vehicles, commissioned the poll.
Are voters ready to ditch gas-powered vehicles?
Despite the vast majority of vehicle-owning respondents driving gas-powered cars (88%), they signal support for a transition to zero-emission vehicles by the end of the decade.
Here's where the 2030 phase-out has the most support:
- 66% of voters in New York and Hawaii
- 62% of voters in California and Massachusetts
- 58% of voters in New Jersey, Oregon and Washington
Meanwhile, 71% of voters ages 18 to 34 are in support, as well as 69% of Black voters and 67% of Hispanic voters.
Some states have begun to transition from new gas-powered vehicle sales already, but others have faced blockages. The state of Washington passed legislation earlier this year that would have set a phase-out target of 2030, though it was ultimately vetoed by the governor. Meanwhile, California and New York are both moving toward a 2035 phase-out.
Buyers may have more incentives to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) shortly. The Biden administration has proposed increasing the electric vehicles tax credit to $12,500. Plus, as part of the Build Back Better Plan, $7.5 billion in spending set aside to build public EV chargers throughout the U.S. could help create some of the necessary infrastructures for drivers.
Concerns about climate change
When asked how worried they are about climate change, most respondents say they’re somewhat worried (31%) or very worried (40%). At the same time, voters expect that a transition to EVs could positively impact not only climate issues, but also other areas of public concern.
Here's what voters say would be positively impacted by a switch to manufacturing electric cars only:
- Air quality (73%)
- Climate change (64%)
- Health (61%)
- Energy independence (58%)
In addition to environmental and political concerns, many shifting factors could influence public opinion toward electric vehicles. For example, far fewer people are commuting to work as a result of the pandemic, a notable alteration of national driving habits.
Inflation in gas prices — as well the previous tax credits and infrastructure — along with increased understanding of the costs involved with owning an electric vehicle could change opinions toward EVs over the coming decade.
Methodology: Coltura commissioned Climate Nexus, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication to survey 2,678 registered voters across the U.S., fielding this survey from Oct. 12 to Oct. 18, 2021.