Poll: 56 percent back carbon tax to help slash deficit

Within that framework, a carbon tax that would save $159 billion in 2022 received a 56 percent approval rating, according to Slate, which said the poll was conducted among a “representative sample” of 1,000 people.

The carbon tax had the fifth-highest approval rating in the poll. It’s more popular than proposals such as a national sales tax, cutting Medicare or Social Security benefits, and repealing the expansion of health insurance coverage.

“A carbon tax, generally viewed as a non-starter even by environmentalists, received the support of more than 56 percent of respondents. Here we see how much context matters. People may hate the idea of a carbon tax in the abstract, but when faced with the alternatives for raising revenue, more than half of them support it,” Slate noted in its analysis of the results.

The cut-the-deficit survey tool can be taken for a spin here.

The most popular choice, with an 84 percent approval rating, was to allow the Bush-era tax rates to expire for at least some people.

Respondents could select allowing the rates to expire for all incomes (generating savings of $490 billion), for incomes above $250,000 (for savings of $154 billion), or doing neither.

After that, reducing non-defense federal spending had a 66 percent approval rate, while reducing military spending was close behind at 64 percent.

With respect to the carbon tax, here’s how YouGov described the proposal for respondents: “Tax activities that release carbon dioxide, such as producing electric power or driving a car. A carbon tax would raise the cost of living by approximately $600 per year for the typical American.”

The survey noted that rising carbon levels could cause dangerous changes including increased coastal flooding, water shortages and extinction of many species.

Respondents were provided a blurb about “considerations” for each option. For the carbon tax, it stated:

“Most scientists believe that carbon dioxide emissions must be cut to prevent a dangerous change in the Earth's climate. But any attempt to cut U.S. carbon emissions would harm the economy by raising prices for goods and services. And climate change can only be prevented by global actions to limit carbon dioxide emissions.”