As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama declared his support for green energy development. "For the sake of our economy, our security and the future of our planet," he said, "we must end the age of oil in our time."
As president, Obama called for putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015. He backed that call with more than $5 billion in taxpayer subsidies to jump-start the electric car industry. The president also put in place a program that gave $7,500 to anyone who would actually buy an electric car. Despite that support, sales were minimal in 2011, so his new budget proposes hiking that subsidy to $10,000 a car.
Voters are skeptical. Just 29 percent favor the $10,000 subsidies, while 58 percent are opposed. When told that reaching the goal of a million electric cars on the road could cost taxpayers $10 billion in subsidies, opposition reaches 65 percent. Voters are looking to reduce federal spending, not increase it.
But there's an important detail suggesting the president's plan could be an even bigger loser in the court of public opinion. The CEO of General Motors said recently that the average income of those buying Chevy's electric Volt is approximately $170,000 a year. That puts electric car buyers in the same league as BMW buyers or those who drive a Mercedes-Benz. It may not be the 1 percent, but it qualifies in the top 7 percent of all American earners. That's a more elite group than those who buy Cadillacs or Lexus cars.
Such trickle-down environmentalism is hardly appealing to voters. Seventy-three percent believe those who earn $150,000 or more should pay the full cost of the car themselves. Only 13 percent think a government subsidy is appropriate.
While agreeing with the president on the importance of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, voters don't see providing subsidies to wealthy electric car buyers as the way to reach that goal. Instead, 75 percent say that the United States should be doing more to develop its own gas and oil resources.Most (57 percent) think the best way to do that is through free-market competition. Only 27 percent believe government subsidies and regulations represent a better approach.
Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of Rasmussen Reports. He is a political analyst, author, speaker and, since 1994, an independent public opinion pollster.
Scott founded Rasmussen Reports, LLC in 2003 as a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information. Rasmussen Reports provides in-depth data, news coverage and commentary on political, business, economic and lifestyle topics at RasmussenReports.com, America’s most visited public opinion polling site.