Is a carbon tax dead?

The Hart Research Associates poll conducted in late August found that 46 percent favored cap-and-trade while 46 percent opposed it. Asked about a carbon tax, 57 percent were in favor while 37 percent were opposed.

The head-to-head battle: Pollsters asked respondents which option they preferred for reducing emissions when the two were compared. The carbon tax won, 58 percent to 27 percent.

But the poll's description of the carbon tax was somewhat sunnier. Here’s how they asked the head-to-head question:

“Based on what you know and the descriptions I just read, which approach would you prefer to reducing carbon emissions:

(Statement A:) A "cap and trade" approach that would set an overall limit on carbon emissions produced by companies and businesses and allow companies to buy and sell permits or credits for the carbon emissions they produce, OR

(Statement B:) A "carbon tax" approach that taxes carbon emissions to create an incentive for companies to reduce their carbon emissions and consumers to increase their energy efficiency while also providing a revenue stream for tax refunds to individuals and households to offset the overall impact of the tax.”

Elaine Kamarck, the co-chair of the U.S. Climate Task Force, highlighted a finding in the poll showing that just two percent of respondents had a “very positive” view of cap-and-trade.

“But it’s not too late to salvage the situation. With both the U.N. and the Senate delaying major climate debates until next year, policymakers now have time to make a serious course correction in the emissions debate,” she said in a prepared statement. “And this survey offers Congress – especially those looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections – the necessary guideposts for success.” Kamarck worked in the Clinton White House and advised Al GoreAl GoreStop the loose talk about hurricanes and global warming Parties struggle with shifting coalitions OPINION | Midterms may provide Dems control — and chance to impeach MORE’s 2000 presidential run.

Voters don’t appear very familiar with either idea.

Nine percent said they knew a lot about cap-and-trade and its pros and cons, 15 percent said a fair amount. Twenty-six percent said they knew very little, and 35 percent had never heard the term. For the carbon tax, eight percent said they knew a lot, 18 percent said a fair amount, 26 percent said very little, and 31 percent had never heard of it.

The pollsters spoke with 1,002 registered voters, and the margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.2 percent, according to Hart Research Associates.