The semantics of carbon pricing ahead of 2020
A new Emerson College poll suggests that the wording around carbon pricing — whether voters support a carbon "tax" versus a carbon "fine on corporations" — could matter a lot.
Why it matters: Several 2020 White House hopefuls — including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren — have endorsed some kind of pricing, though details are scarce.
What they found: Emerson polled slightly over 1,000 voters on Sept. 21–23.
- The question: "Would you support or oppose a carbon tax?" The answer: 35% supported it, 27% opposed and 38% percent were unsure. (Margin of error is 4.9%.)
- The question, posed to the other half of the group: "Would you support or oppose a fine on corporations that pollute the air with carbon dioxide?” The answer: 52% supported it, 25% opposed and 24% were unsure. (MOE is 4.3%.)
But, but, but: The level of public support for a given policy is just loosely related to its chances of advancement.
- Needless to say, there are all kinds of detailed policy design questions beyond the scope of these 30,000-foot level questions.
- But generally speaking, a fine on companies would probably seep through into their prices.
Editor's note: This story has been clarified to reflect that, when asked about a "carbon tax," 35% of voters polled by Emerson supported the measure and 27% opposed it.